Ensuring a water-secure future is a critical global challenge. It involves sustainable management, conservation, and equitable distribution of water resources.
The current summer is one of extreme weather, with forest fires in Europe and Canada, record temperatures in China, and an unprecedented storm in California and parts of southern Europe including Greece and Turkiye.
Yet, one thing that isn’t always considered in the discussion of rising temperatures and climate change is water availability.
With levels of water scarcity soaring as annual water use rises by around 3,500bn cubic metres globally over the last century, this deserves as much global attention as climate change, according to the World Economic Forum.
And increasing water circularity through global collaboration could have a hugely positive impact, by reducing drought risk, supporting climate goals and advancing social development to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The question of how we secure a water positive future is at the heart of ‘Thirst for Change’, a new research from BSI and the NGO Waterwise.
As the research makes clear, while water is abundant on Earth, just 0.5% is available as fresh water, and a combination of population growth, climate change, and economic development is driving demand and putting growing, unsustainable pressure on this supply.
Crucially, it has been found that water provision and use contribute around 10% of global carbon emissions, while drought could affect as many as 75% of the world’s population by 2050. Ultimately, action now on water could be as beneficial to the planet as tackling the climate crisis – and the two are inextricably linked.
Like climate change, water security is an issue relevant to all economies, not just those known for arid landscapes.
The BSI Water Security Indicator evaluated availability across 40 locations, with the US, China and India receiving the top rating, meaning they are facing the highest possible water security challenge.
As with the race to net zero, there is much the world can do to have a positive impact and meet this challenge, if governments, the water sector and other players, including organisations, collaborate on a large scale, noted Ryan Lynch, Practice Director of BSI’s Sustainability Practice at BSI.
There are lots of strategies that can be deployed here, but a key starting point is making it easier for consumers to choose water-saving products, for example, via product labelling. More broadly, it is about embedding a circular economy mindset that sees preserving water as a priority.
Many of us have embraced the journey to net zero, and now understand greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction as critical. We can do the same with water and effect change if we step up efforts to prioritise addressing water availability challenges, and encourage a positive water-saving culture amongst individuals, organisations and society, at home and in the workplace, and across different sectors of industry.
It is worth noting that achieving water security is a complex, long-term endeavour that requires concerted efforts from individuals, communities, governments, and organisations at local, national, and global levels.
In a world where water security is a growing issue, we all have a role to play, undoubtedly!