I’ve recently been doing some research on water scarcity, and what I’ve learned is disturbing. Access to clean drinking water is not just a third-world problem; apparently it is becoming a global challenge, regardless of location. It seems that global climate change combined with water waste and inefficient use are coming back to haunt us.
While significant efforts are being put into recycling of wastewater and into desalination plants, our best and most cost-effective bet for protecting and preserving our water supply is through better water management.
Few understand how critical water efficiency is to protecting fresh water and ensuring an ongoing supply of drinkable water, but as this crisis reaches a peak in major cities world-wide, we all must take more responsibility for implementing better water sustainability measures. And the nice thing about this is that water preservation efforts pay for themselves through lower water bills. Around 25% of water in any organization goes to waste; to prevent this loss, organizations need to monitor water usage and increase water efficiency.
Changing Climates Demand Immediate Action
Many of the cities struggling with water supply have long been dependent on natural resources. Droughts in the United States and Brazil have forced residents in major cities to rely on bottled water. Rising sea levels are impacting coastal cities like Jakarta as sea water contaminates fresh water sources, whereas other islands like Tokyo rely on rainfall that has been limited in recent months. Rivers are running dry for desert cities like Colorado and Las Vegas, and lack of snowfall in mountains like the Sierra Nevada have caused a shortage of water in the spring. Climates are shifting, and cities are seeing drastic and dangerous results. The BBC has identified these 11 major cities at risk for running out of drinking water. The number of cities at risk is expected to rise in the coming years
Pollution is a Significant Problem
Industrialization and antiquated plumbing are directly responsible for the lack of fresh water in cities like Beijing and Bangalore. Out-of-date sewage systems contaminate water to the point in which it cannot be used for agricultural purposes. Untreated agriculture and residential waste are permeating historical sources of water, like the River Nile, that civilizations have depended on for thousands of years. Moscow is 70 percent dependent on surface water, yet pollution from the industrial area has placed most drinking water reserves below sanitary standards. Water is consistently being lost as human initiatives have prioritized industrial innovation over sustaining the world’s most precious natural resource.
Cities Are Reaching Capacity
The problem of many cities lies in the sheer number of people that require fresh water. Areas like London, which are surrounded by water, are expected to be in crisis in a few years as they run out of space. Most fresh water is drawn from local rivers, but it is unlikely that supply will meet demand. This challenge of capacity is also a concern for cities that experience permanent droughts. With no local resources, the problem of supply and demand will only exacerbate itself.
Direct Human Action is Making Matters Worse
Poor water management practices are wasting drinkable water, and knowledge regarding water usage and wasteful consumption is severely lacking. Very few cities have pipeline infrastructures that preserve fresh water and prevent waste. Inefficient irrigation, damaged water appliances (leaky taps, constantly running toilets, small pipe leaks) can waste a lot of water – and a lot of money. For example:
- Misconfigured irrigation systems can use up to 10 times the amount of water needed, wasting millions of gallons of water per year at a single facility.
- Even in a well-maintained office building, typically 1 in 10 toilets are leaking at any given time – a potential waste of 1,00,000 gallons of water per year!
Water Sustainability is the Solution
Global demand for fresh water is exceeding supply, water sustainability is a key element of the solution. The number of deaths related to water pollution is increasing globally, and the need for outsourced water from other regions is no longer reserved for developing countries. First-world cities are having to rely on neighboring infrastructures, draining the resources of all that surround them. States like California and Oregon have been forced to implement executive orders to reduce water consumption. Although water diversion projects and executive orders to reduce water usage are a step in the right direction, such measures can only be implemented with the proper tools to know where – and how – water is being wasted. In Oregon, those directives include strengthening building codes and directly impact property managers and building owners. Having the right water intelligence tools in place to meet those mandates is essential.
As I’ve learned in my research, one in four of the world’s largest cities are currently in water distress. Long-term conservation efforts must be taken to reduce consumption and intelligent water management is vital for preserving water as a natural resource. I’m excited about our role in helping those looking to build a sustainable water future. It is imperative that the world transforms its approach to water management and we’re thrilled to be a part of this crucial change.