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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A joined up solution to tackling the world’s growing water supply crisis

September 27th 2016 marked the first day of the Global Water Leakage Summit, which both showcases and examines how modern technology can be used to help tackle the growing water supply challenges facing countries around the world.

Held each year in London, the event is attended by delegates representing a wide spectrum of interests, from technology providers such as ourselves through to water companies, end users and people from the scientific and academic community.

We have been the lead sponsor for this event every year since it started back in 2008. Why? Simply put, we believe that finding ways to manage the world’s supplies of water more responsibly is one of today’s most pressing priorities.

Since the first Summit, none of the challenges around managing global water supplies have got any easier. Consider the following facts for example:
  • Since 2008, the global population has grown by around 800 million – equivalent to the population of 100 Londons – putting the world’s finite stocks of water under increasing pressure.
  • The impacts of climate change are increasingly starting to be felt, with extreme weather events such as flooding, heatwaves and prolonged dry periods becoming more common
  • Meanwhile, ongoing global rises in energy prices have made it increasingly more expensive to treat and pump water. 
None of these challenges are likely to get any easier in future. Take population for example. According to the United Nations, if the world’s population keeps growing at its current rate, demand for water will exceed the available global supply by 40% by 2030.

This means that around four billion people will face severe water stress within the next 14 years. This problem will affect all of us. 

The same goes for energy. Oil prices may have fallen to historic lows, but the cost of energy is still projected to rise, due partly to the costs associated with developing alternative energy sources.

As anyone from a water utility will know, water treatment and pumping are energy-intensive processes that account for a significant portion of operating costs. Making processes as efficient as possible must be a priority if water is to continue to be provided at a fair cost to customers.

The current rate of water loss worldwide is unsustainable. Leakage, poor metering and theft are leading to an estimated 46 billion litres of drinking water being ‘lost’ every day.

To give some idea of what water loss on this scale looks like, imagine 13 Olympic-sized pools being drained every minute.

The point is that much of this lost water could be recovered through relatively simple measures, such as measuring more widely and using the latest technologies to pinpoint any discrepancies.

Ongoing developments in technology are also opening up new possibilities to use so-called ‘big data’ from installed devices to help develop strategies to combat water loss.

Taking these and other such measures can make a major contribution to ensuring sufficient water is available to meet the needs of the growing world population.    

On the financial front, tackling lost water will also generate increased revenue, providing additional funding for new investments and creating a ‘virtuous circle’ delivering all round benefits for water providers and customers alike.

Creating a truly sustainable water supply needs both the willpower to make things happen and a mechanism for deciding the best ways to achieve it.

The Global Water Leakage Summit is an ideal forum for this. The issues around ensuring a long-term, plentiful supply of water are too diverse and too complex for any one person or company to tackle by themselves. By bringing together technology providers, water companies, academics and other experts specialising in the provision, treatment and measurement of water, the Summit enables the effective sharing of knowledge, best practices and new ideas that can be used to find new ways to manage and distribute water.

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