Water – an essential sector in need of solutions
The past year has seen water at the heart of global efforts to deal with some of the most pressing issues the world faces.
The year started with the importance of water being underlined by the Global Economic Forum. In its latest report on global risks, water crises were identified as the number one risk out of 28 in terms of their potential impact following a survey of influential people around the world. This ranking has become a shorthand for the level of concern that exists around water in both developed and developing countries.
The report was based on the results of WEF’s Global Risks Perception Survey. In fact this only ranked water crises eighth in terms of the likelihood that this risk will occur in the next ten years, so although a global water crisis would have a devastating effect, it is also seen as being somewhat unlikely in the next decade. But alongside this, extreme weather effects were ranked as being the second most likely global risk to occur, while a failure to deal with climate change was ranked seventh in terms of likelihood and fifth in terms of impact.
The report stressed the extent to which the various risks are linked and that they need to be dealt with together to create a resilient future. What the report does therefore is to underline the importance of water, cutting as it does across so many issues.
Water has also consolidated its position in the global development agenda thanks to agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals that will be the focus for the international community from 2016 to 2030. There had been concerns that the water goal of the Millennium Development Goals would not have a corresponding dedicated aim in the new agenda. A standalone goal was successfully included, Goal 6 – to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
More importantly, the SDGs apply to all countries, and the new water goal has been expanded. The MDGs called for the proportion of people lacking access to water and sanitation to be halved. Now the target is full access. In addition, the goal now includes a target of halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally by 2030, and to substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors by the same date.
The 17 SDGs and their 169 associated targets are described by the United Nations as being ‘integrated and indivisible’. Water issues are linked closely to many of the goals, not least Goal 9, to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, Goal 11, to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, Goal 13, to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, and Goal 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources, including protecting them from land-based pollution.
On top of this, efforts around this month’s Paris COP21 / CMP11 climate change conference have been and will continue to drive forward action on both mitigation and adaptation efforts on climate change. Water lies at the heart of the adaptation response, with many of the effects of climate change relating to water. Not least, it will demand greater efforts to bring security to water supplies, as well as infrastructure improvements, especially to deal with urban flooding and sea level rise. Mitigation is of fundamental importance to the sector too, especially through the links between water and energy and the prospect that this will add impetus to efforts to reduce carbon emissions and drive down energy use.
Amsterdam International Water Week also made its contribution to the on-going progress on water during the year. The conference themes of how to move both industry and utilities towards a circular economy and the task of creating resilient cities were at the forefront of the agenda that needs to be set for water. The exhibition meanwhile featured current and emerging technologies needed to build a water secure future, with a strong focus on highlighting and celebrating innovation.
As attention turns to 2016 – a year that will include an exciting new development for Aquatech: the launch of Aquatech Mexico – the need for the innovation and solutions that the participants in these events around the world bring to the market remains as strong as ever.