The future of water
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has announced the publication of The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead. As sweeping and transformational changes are heading our way in the not-too-distant future, this ground-breaking book takes a serious look at how the world will soon value water, use water and access water.
Using his extensive experience in the waterindustry, first author Steve Maxwell presents likely scenarios for the broad trends that will have a significant impact upon future water challenges worldwide: population, economics, energy, climate and pollution. He discusses how the actions of individuals, investors, water utilities, industries and nations can actually change the future of water.
Bill Owens, former governor of Colorado, said of the book: “The Future of Water is sobering and exhilarating at the same time. It's sobering as Maxwell and Yatesdetail just how water touches so many aspects of modern life and how dire the situation might be if nothing changes. However, this book is also exhilaratingin the fast-paced way it examines the future of water from our own kitchen sinks to massive dams in China.”
Topics covered in The Future of Water include the future of water use at home, in agriculture and in industry. The future sources and storage of water are considered, as are businesses and utilities.
In the future, lawns will be much smaller andmay use a grass species that can live on common
seawater. Clothes washers may use a cup ofwater per load (or no water at all). Dishwashers may use bursts ofsteam-infused air and ultraviolet light to clean and sanitise dishes. 70–80% ofall water consumption on the planet is by agriculture. The aquifers that supplyall that water are gradually drying up. As it becomes scarcer, water willinevitably cost more and drive up the prices of other products. As farmersbecome more innovative, packaging may soon say “Irrigated with naturalrainfall, no fossil waters used.”
As its cost increases, water will become afar more critical input or decision factor in all manufacturing and industry.Water will increasingly be considered a factor of production in the same way that labour, capital or energy cost inputs are today. Old industrial cities in the rainy northeast US that have been shrinking may experience revitalisation in the future, as water-intensive industries move there.
The ocean represents an unlimited source ofwater for seacoast cities that can afford desalination. In the rest of the world, however, wastewater and stormwater reuse may become commonplace to provide ‘new’ sources of water for drinking, energy production, agriculture and industry.
It is hard to overstate the role that damshave played in the economic development of the US. Today, America is building very few new dams and is in fact tearing down many old dams. On the other hand, China and Africa are dam-building with intensity. How will the US meet its water storage needs with fewer dams? What do these new Chinese and African dams– some the biggest ever built – mean for the future of water?
Treatment costs will continue to increase inresponse to ever-stricter water-quality regulations for both water andwastewater. Water rates will rise to generate cash for more effective treatmenttechnologies and escalating underground pipe-replacement programs. Smallutilities may consolidate for cost savings.
Private companies are lining up to deliver innovative, advanced solutions to the challenges of water scarcity, storage, treatment and distribution. It is impossible to define but, taken as a whole, water is probably the world’s third largest industry after oil & gas and electrical power. Most experts place the size of the commercial water market at between USD500 and USD600 billion per year worldwide, and still growing.