Changing the way we think to meet the water challenge

There is now less than a decade left to reach the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 of delivering clean water and sanitation for all. The UN also projects that by 2025, half of the countries worldwide will face water stress or shortages. By 2050, as many as three out of four people around the globe could be affected by water scarcity.

In South East Asia, this issue will carry a much greater threat as the areas identified as water scarce, over 70% of the people affected by this issue live in Asia.

For the water utilities and operators in the region, there are a lot of factors that compound to give a challenging context in which to operate and provide the right levels of service at an affordable cost.

South East Asia is a rapidly developing region, and issues such as industrial development, urbanisation, population growth, and environmental pollution place increasing pressures on water companies to provide adequate services. These issues, compounded by poor domestic management of water resources and increasing variability in rainfall and climate patterns have made South East Asia highly susceptible to floods, droughts, and natural disasters.

Given the scale of the issues facing the sector, doing what we have always done, adopting the same approaches and applying the same solutions will not be enough to meet the demands of today or tomorrow. We need to be open to exploring new approaches, innovative technologies and different operating models if we are to succeed.

So, what are some of the things we could do? If we look across the global water industry, we can take some examples of best practice and explore some of the emerging thinking around how we can address some of these issues.

Less ownership, more partnership and collaboration
The COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of continuing to deal with the pandemic mean that the global economy will be affected for years to come. Challenges to budgets and investment into the water sector will mean that we may not just be able to build or buy our way out of the problems we are facing.

The traditional model of water utilities owning and operating all the assets, creating solutions and adopting manually intensive operating regimes will need to change to meet affordability challenges.

Mark Kaney is asset management director at Binnies (Europe).

The full article is published on the latest edition of Water & Wastewater Asia May/Jun 2021 issue. To continue reading the article, click here.