Water usage around the world continues to rise, but with supply diminishing at current rates, the projections for global water availability are not promising. Oliver Wyman, a global leader in management consulting, estimates that 25 percent of the world’s population is currently living in areas of extremely high water stress, and by 2050 that portion of the population will more than double.
2.7 billion people experience water scarcity at least one month a year and the United Nations has declared 2018-2028 the decade of “Water for Sustainable Development”. A new report by Oliver Wyman, Taking Back Control of the World’s Most Precious Resource: Opportunities for Integrated Water Management, highlights that countries need to take an integrated approach that considers their unique challenges, availability of financial resources and extent of water scarcity. The report shows that by adopting such strategies, the accessibility and availability of water resources will become more achievable.
Commenting on the insights, Bruno Sousa, Partner in the Energy Practice at Oliver Wyman, said: “With water resources becoming increasingly scarce globally, the Middle East region is addressing the critical issues with governments increasingly adopting new strategies for balancing their scarce water resources and growing demand for fresh water. This has led some countries in the Middle East to turn to options such as desalination and treatment and reuse of wastewater.”
According to the report, countries have historically prioritized wastewater treatment lower than water supply services, ultimately resulting in untreated waste being discharged into the environment. In the UAE however, levels of reuse of treated wastewater have reached 51 percent. The use of treatment technology has enabled higher levels of reuse and provided more water at lower costs.
Although many countries continue to use older methods, the report highlights that the water sector has experienced many technological advancements in recent years. Water supply infrastructure can be significantly improved by leveraging new technology and refining existing, ageing infrastructure across the value chain. Innovative water demand management methods can also be deployed to further limit domestic water consumption and expand to agriculture and industrial consumption.
Other methods of addressing sustainable water management presented in the report include developing efficient water supply infrastructure, managing water demand, conserving water domestically, enhancing irrigation and crop optimization among others.
The report also highlights a lack of action to address water-related challenges which will further exacerbate economic losses caused by water-related issues. Losses in agriculture, health, and income from similar issues can result in up to a six percent reduction in GDP in the Middle East by 2050.
Bruno Sousa added: “To ensure water-stressed countries mitigate waster scarcity, countries in the Middle East should establish multi-year, ambitious, comprehensive programs to drive the changes required across water supply infrastructure and demand management.”
“With the help of policy makers, water resources managers, regulators and service provides, an integrated approach that strives to ensure sustainable development of the sector can be achieved. Clear roles and responsibilities must also be established for accountability purposes and to ensure that the control and monitoring of services provided enhance the performance of the water sector.”
The report notes that financial incentives must be in place for water efficiency and conservation initiatives. Likewise, capacity development and technology will create the knowledge and tools to ensure that future challenges are properly met, and that program and initiative objectives will be sustainable in the long-term.