Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

We are facing a world where our water supplies are increasingly being polluted, degraded and lost, yet at the same time droughts, floods, sea level-rise and population increases threaten the livelihoods of millions. Companies everywhere need to reduce their water use and mitigate the risk of severely reduced supply. Does your company have a strategy and an action plan?
What is changing?

Sustainability

  • Human use and pollution of freshwater resources have reached a level where the sustainability of water resources is threatened and the resulting water scarcity and water quality degradation will potentially limit food production.
  • Water shortages will affect many areas of the United States and the world.
  • In a world where gigantic states (California) and megacities (Sao Paulo, Brazil) are suffering from drought and water scarcityproblems are expected to become still worse in the decades ahead.
  • The threat of air and water pollution from manufacturing that uses natural gas as a feedstock is very clear.
  • Two-thirds of the world’s largest companies acknowledging that they are exposed to water-related risks.
  • The amount of water available per person will decrease by 60 percent.
  • Oceans are growing so warm and acidic that fisheries could be lost.

Climate change

  • Economic loss risk to floods and cyclones in OECD countries is growing faster than GDP per capita.
  • Rainfall and temperature changes will affect wheat growth.
  • Climate change negatively will affect water resources worldwide in the long term.
  • The huge extent of the aquifers in Greenland means the waterstored inside the glaciers there could potentially offset sea level rise.
  • In Washington State and in California, new storm water regulations will require measures to prevent storm water pollutioninto the environment.
  • Streams in the Mediterranean, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia are at risk.
  • Sea level rise is projected to add two feet of water globally by mid-century.
  • As the Florida water table rises salt water intrusion will further contaminate freshwater supplies.

Agriculture

  • As more marginal lands are converted to production agriculture in order to meet increasing demands, drought tolerance and salt tolerance are becoming highly sought-after traits.
  • Increasing water infiltration rates will capture water to support crop growth while reducing flooding and erosion.
  • Egypt’s days of relying on most of the Nile’s water reaching its territory could be numbered.
  • Warmer water temperatures will cause the oceans to expand.
  • More cities will effectively become ‘tidal’-in the sense they’ll allow water in and then control the flooding.
  • The severe and ongoing depletion of underground water supplies in India poses a growing threat to the nation’s food security.
  • There will be an estimated 9 billion people in the world in the next 35 years increasing the demand for water and food by around 30%.
Implications

Conflicts

  • Concerns over water are mobilizing ‘Fracktivist’ movements worldwide.
  • Warmer temperatures and drought increase the risk of violent conflict around the world.
  • Additional social instability could result if water availabilitydecreases to the point where current farming practices are no longer profitable.

Technology

  • The necessary focus on water treatment, management,infrastructure and supply could lead to a water market worth over $1 trillion by 2020.
  • Toilet, sinks, baths and showers will understand when to conserve and how much water to use when flushing.
  • Hot countries that lack fresh water could harness solar power for desalinating and pumping water.
  • The downside of global warming will drive innovation in the use of specialist irrigation, water recovery and urban food productionas farmland is stressed by increased temperatures, droughts and floods.

Production

  • There is a risk of permanent depletion from areas where water is abstracted.
  • Fundamental changes to the systems of production and consumption will be needed in order to meet the EU goal of ‘living well within the limits of the planet’ by 2050.
  • The management of social and environmental risks such as waterrelated risks is key to ensuring a sustainable long-term productionbase for producers of alcoholic beverages.
  • As precipitation patterns change across the US so will water re-charge rates.

Investment

  • Without a major increase in investment for infrastructure many countries will struggle to meet the targets.
  • An increase in the number of adequately trained water professionals will be needed to efficiently expand water supply and sanitation, increase water efficiency, adopt water rights and improve resilience to water-related disasters.

Learn more
To find the sources and more resources on Shaping Tomorrow about the future of sensors some of which were used in this Trend Alert. View Water, Water, Everywhere.

Also, click here to find out how Shaping Tomorrow can help your organization rapidly assess and respond to these and other key issues affecting your business.

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