Water scarcity requires a new paradigm

According to a recently released report from Deloitte Global Services Limited, the future is not bright when it comes to availability of fresh water around the world, in both developing and developed countries.

Among the 19 conclusions of the report:

  • On a global level we have a finite resource for which demand will soon outstrip supply. If we do not address these issues by creating frameworks at a global level and take action locally, there is the increasing threat of conflict as competition for water sources intensifies.
  • Although the problems are global, the solutions are all local. Therefore governments, businesses, NGOs and the public all need to work together to ensure safe and clean water supplies.
  • In many countries, pricing systems must be rethought: pricing should reflect the issue of growing demand and diminishing supplies. Higher water prices should also encourage water conservation and efficiency programmes in agriculture, industry and in homes.
  • While water may be a free resource in the environment, its extraction, treatment for drinking, distribution, collection, and re-treatment for discharge is very capital and operationally intensive, and the costs must be recovered from somewhere.
  • While price increases are difficult political decisions, providing more information and educating the public about why higher prices are necessary will be key both for utilities and customers.
  • An integrated approach to solving key issues between the water and energy sectors may lead to lower carbon emissions while at the same time benefiting ecosystems.
  • The water sector could benefit enormously from closer collaboration with technology providers to achieve sustainable water and effective water usage.
  • The private sector is expected to take a more active role in the global water industry, not only in terms of managing assets on behalf of the state, but also in owning and financing the assets.
  • Given that it is our most precious resource, we expect to see more initiatives to trade water and rights to water based on market dynamics. These could include setting up local markets, selling abstraction licences or more radical steps such as long-term water trade agreements.
  • Efforts to demonstrate water stewardship will be a key theme for utilities and water users in coming years.

The full report is available at https://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-Global/Local%20Assets/Documents/Energy_Resources/dttl_er_WaterTight2012.pdf

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