Waste Not, Want Not: Delivering Quality Water Around The World

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – November 16, 2012 – Comment

Water is considered to be a basic human right, and yet there is a great disparity around the world in how it gets delivered. Even though here in America we have a reasonable expectation that turning on the tap will produce a flow of clean and healthy water, a recent report by the Economist highlights the risk of national water demand outstripping supply by 2030 as “highly likely”. The report also notes that major water utility companies have no doubt that demand by 2030 will somehow be met, but to get there, wide-ranging efforts and investments are needed to improve water productivity—from stemming leaks to making better use of recycled water.

I’ve talked before about water conservation, however, as important as it is for the sake of going green, I suppose there is a sort of luxury involved in a country’s ability to make choices about how sustainable their water infrastructure and delivery system is. Or, perhaps you think that wasting water is an issue solely for developed nations.

If you’re catching my drift, both of the latter assumptions are wrong. The Economist report found that wasteful consumer behavior is one of the top three barriers to ensuring sufficient clean water supplies in both developed and developing nations (The first concern and the second, respectively). Think about it: if you are continually running water while brushing your teeth, or not repairing leaking faucets or toilets, etc., that water that you are not using isn’t just running down your drain into someone else’s house, it must go through a complex filtering system before it can be used by someone else.

The best way to handle water consumption for the future is by staying ahead of the curve. Within the report, there is a call that we need to begin non-water-wasting education that mirrors that of non-smoking education. I’m not sure that certain types of shocking anti-smoking ad campaigns would translate for the water industry, but if the world continues to waste, there could be serious consequences through shortages across the globe.

Now, I could get into lengthy discussions about water tariffs in Russia, insufficient investment capital for developing nations, climate change, and a whole host of other issues that affect the distribution of quality water throughout the world, but the bottom line is that none of those are things that the average consumer has a hand in. As the great Benjamin Franklin once said. “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” Whether you’re in America, Russia, Brazil or anywhere, reducing water waste is a challenge we all share…let’s not have to look at the bottom of that well.