Doubling down on improving water resilience

By: Rick Holland, regional managing director, APAC – water utility and executive director, Grundfos Australia

2024 has already seen a cascade of extreme weather events — from devastating floods in Pakistan, to scorching heatwaves in the Sahel and West Africa — leaving an indelible mark on many parts of the world. The increasing number of lives, now already in the tens of millions, affected by extreme weather events further reminds us how vulnerable we are in the face of an increasingly volatile climate and water system.

With climate change supercharging these extreme events, it will only further exacerbate the existing water crisis we are facing today. Despite the efforts that have been set in motion, water remains a growing concern, posing a threat to our future.

This World Environment Day serves as a stark reminder: to weather the coming storms and droughts, we must double down on our efforts to improve water resilience through innovation, local adaptation, and collaboration.  

Doubling down on innovation for speed

The past two decades have seen a surge in innovative water technologies. One good example is how on-demand water supply has been made possible with Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. With remote sensors, the system can monitor real-time water demand and automatically adjust water flow, reducing excessive pressure in the water pipes. This in turn limits water leakages and losses in a city’s water infrastructure, minimising cost and energy.

However, these advancements are just the beginning. The escalating climate change demands more. We need to double down on innovation and push the boundaries further to accelerate change. Take flood control as an example — there are diverse solutions targeted at mitigating the impact of flooding. However, due to ageing infrastructure, more frequent extreme weather events, and capacity limitations amidst rapid urbanisation, flooding is still wreaking havoc in many cities.

In 2023, extreme weather, climate, and water-related hazards affected over 9 million people in Asia, with a death toll of over 2,000. More than 80% of the reported hydrometeorological hazards in Asia were flood and storm events.1

Embracing an innovative and proactive approach to flood control, researchers and businesses are now looking at using real-time data and artificial intelligence (AI) to predict where and when a flood may happen, and how a city’s water infrastructure can work collaboratively to minimise its impact. This includes leveraging new sensor and telemetry technologies to predict and prevent spillages and overflow to enhance a city’s sewer security.

Doubling down on local adaptation for benefit

Water crisis manifests differently across the globe. Depending on the country’s land area, water challenges experienced by one city can be extreme opposites to another. While areas such as southern Philippines and the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia grapple with floods, regions in the same country struggle with droughts.

It is vital to apply a local lens when tackling water challenges. Doubling down on local adaptation helps sharpen our focus to maximise the benefits. The solar pump is a good example of innovation tailored to local conditions, offering a sustainable and reliable solution by utilising the abundant solar energy available in some regions to power water supply systems.

Beyond the core solar pump technology, local adaptation strategies can unlock even greater benefits. A remote cattle farm station in Australia’s outback, spanning nearly one million acres, raises a herd of more than 13,000 Brahman breeders. Access to fresh water is crucial to their survival, and this station relies on a network of 67 bores. However, the unique challenge of managing all of these bores falls onto the shoulders of an individual. To address this manpower shortage, solar pump solutions have been ingeniously combined with low earth orbit satellite technology. This allows the single bore runner to remotely monitor the water supply in real time, even in areas without cellular network.

Remote cattle farm station benefits from Grundfos’ solar solutions

Doubling down on collaboration for impact

A team is only as strong as its weakest link, and this holds true for global water security. To date, 2 billion people still lack basic access to safe drinking water.2 True water resilience demands doubling down on collaboration — a collective effort by the governments, businesses, and communities is what we need to amplify impact.

The 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) is a key example on the impact that collaboration can create. A global public-private-civil society partnership, 2030 WRG works with governments, private sector companies, and civil society organisations to identify and implement solutions that improve water security. As of today, it has secured US$993m in financing facilitated for water-related programmes in 14 countries, leading to improved water governance and increased investment in water infrastructure.3

SafeWater, a strategic business unit of Grundfos, embodies the same spirit of collaboration. We aim to provide sustainable water solutions to the world’s most water-challenged communities and improve their quality of life. We achieve this by working with a diverse network of partners, including humanitarian and development aid organisations, local distributors, banks, investors, and governments.  

SafeWater operating as water kiosk in Thailand

Our solutions extend beyond just hardware. We prioritise training and local capacity building to ensure the systems are sustainable and deliver the biggest possible impact for the people who need them the most. Through partnerships with NGOs and our own sales operations, we have improved water access for 7 million people in 2023 alone.

The future we inherit is the consequence of the choice we make today. By doubling down on our efforts to innovate, improve, and collaborate, we can transform challenges like drought and desertification into opportunities for progress. Weathering the storms helps us get through the present, but it is the relentless pursuit of improvement that propels us toward a more water-secure future.

Rick Holland, regional managing director, APAC – water utility and executive director, Grundfos Australia

Images: Grundfos

References

1 Indian Express. Asia worst hit by disasters in 2023, 79 extreme weather events killed over 2,000: WMO report. <https://indianexpress.com/article/india/asia-disasters-2023-extreme-weather-killed-over-2000-wmo-report-9285807/>

2 World Bank. World Water Day: Two billion people still lack access to safely managed water. <https://blogs.worldbank.org/en/opendata/world-water-day-two-billion-people-still-lack-access-safely-managed-water>

3 2030 WRG. Collective action on water security for people, environment, and economy. <https://2030wrg.org/>