World Water Week: The Value of Water

Here is a staggering fact. We know that safe drinking water is a precious asset and although 70% of the world’s surface is covered by water, only 1% of the total water resources on earth are available for human use. Today, that 1% is under threat as a result of population growth, urbanization and crumbling infrastructure. Because of facts like that, World Water Week brings together some of the brightest minds in the world to identify water risks and management, and to find solutions that are important and viable to business and stakeholders.

Why?

Because Water has value.

Determining the most effective action often requires addressing a broad range of issues such as understanding water use, identifying its impact, seizing opportunities, assessing performance and communicating it to other water users on both global and local levels. A recent poll on the value of water, details what U.S. consumers and industrial and agricultural businesses think should be done about this crisis—and who should pay for it. Here are the key findings among the survey respondents.

Because of these global concerns, more and more corporations are partnering with others to develop the set of tools that will drive change towards more sustainable practices and policies. Corporate citizenship and social responsibility are good business. Why? Because according to the United Nations and World Health Organization, more than a billion people lack access to potable water and half of humanity will be living with water shortages in 50 years. Finding solutions is an investment in human lives, an example of a shared value system and potentially good for business.

Smart money

Investment in water solutions is difficult for those who lack access. But clean water needed for hand-washing, safe disposal of excrement, and good hygiene around food, domestic animals, and sick family members, is the world’s most cost-effective health intervention.

Research has shown that for every dollar invested in sanitation, up to $34 more in health, education, and social and economic development costs can be saved. Using existing, proven approaches and technologies, and for about 10 billion USD a year, the world could meet sanitation targets set by many leading organizations. That would provide access to basic sanitation by 2015 to nearly 50% of the people without it today.

By the numbers

  • More than 660 million people without adequate sanitation live on less than $2 a day and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
  • Every $1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation yields gains of $4-$12.
  • Economic losses, due to the lack of water and sanitation in Africa as a result of the mortality and morbidity impacts, are estimated at $28.4 billion or about 5% of GDP.
  • Aid for sanitation and drinking-water is increasing in absolute terms, but its share of total aid decreased from 8% in 1997 to 5% in 2008.
  • Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.
  • The private sector’s proportion in the water and sewerage sectors in developing countries is, on average, only 35%, whereas in the developed world it constitutes 80% of the market.

There needs to be greater discussion about how water risk and efficient water management can play a key role in assessing the value of water. Fortunately, there are many engineering techniques and new products that can help achieve this goal. An article in an industry publication, Consulting Specifying Engineer magazine, explained how significant energy and water could be saved using Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs). There are also new products on the market that can save an average family of four over 120,000 gallons of water and commercial products that are much more energy-efficient than what was available just a few years ago.

So, what’s the solution? We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts?

Art by Jana Ham of White City, SK, Canada

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