In 2010, Matthew Huber and Steven Sherwood predicted in their paper, An Adaptability Limit to Climate Change Due to Heat Stress, that in “30 to 50 years from now, the water warts are going to start.”
When they had originally made the claim, according to Mr Wayne Byrne, CEO of OxyMen, a solutions company focusing on intensive wastewater treatment with an innovative Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR), the context was grounded in their analysis of climate change. But when studied in the wake of recent events, their assessment looks to be eerily accurate.
After all, various factors are coming together to put significant pressure on precious and finite water supplies.
Global water infrastructure has been suffering from incessant underinvestment, neglected for decades, and now, slowly falling into ruin. But at the same time, the same decaying infrastructure is put under ever more pressure as the world’s population continues to grow. According to the United Nations (UN), the global population is expected to hit 11.2 billion by 2100.
By 2050, 64 per cent of the developing world and 86 per cent of the developed world will be urbanised, as estimated by the UN. Moreover, the UN also predicted that almost all the population growth around the world will be absorbed by metropolises everywhere, with 1.1 billion new urbanites joining the ranks.
And as industries continue to boom, global warming becomes a notable issue. All the regions evaluated in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report showed that climate change negatively affected water resources and freshwater ecosystems.
Regardless of where one lives, or how far the world’s problems may seem, the issue of water affects all, and is already becoming one of the defining issues of the times.
Solutions are, of course, incredibly wide ranging. But one solution that should never be followed is to do what has always been done. Change must take place, along with learning how to regard water as the scarce and precious resource that it is rapidly becoming while also adopting new and innovative technologies suitable for the current world issues is particularly urgent.
According to Mr Byrne, change needs to be made, felt, and seen in everything from water consumption to wastewater management and urban design. In particular, wastewater must no longer follow the traditional route of being discharged into the closest waterway.
Although investment in infrastructure brings in low interest rates, it makes strong commercial sense as it puts people to work in areas of high importance.
In addition, wastewater management has seen a number of innovations in recent years that positively impact the quality of the water treated. However, these new innovations and technologies must be adopted at a faster rate.
Solutions may be varied, but the driving factors behind the increasing pressure on water are not going to decrease – and they are not likely going to disappear anytime soon, either.
But so many innovations are consistently appearing, making major positive impacts on different parts of the water cycle. Now, it is up to us to adopt a new mindset as well as the new technology.