How Can Businesses Adapt To The Water Crisis?
One of the main focuses of the recent COP26 climate change conference, held in Glasgow in November, was the water crisis – and the importance of the topic was certainly emphasised by the increasingly frequent extreme meteorological events that happened around the world over the last 12 months.
2021 was certainly characterised by climate change-related disasters. A new report from charity Christian Aid has just revealed that weather events being driven by the changing climate saw millions around the world severely affected.
Hurricane Ida hit the US in August, with thousands of Louisiana residents evacuated, while huge amounts of rainfall hit numerous states and cities as a result, such as New York, which issued a flash flood emergency alert for the first time.
And in July, European countries including France and Germany were affected by severe floods, some of which were catastrophic. Record levels of rainfall saw rivers burst their banks, with hundreds of people killed.
The Pacific Northwest and south-western Canada, a region known for rainy weather, experienced deadly heatwaves in the summer, the first-ever water shortage was declared on the Colorado River, temperatures reached record highs in Moscow in June, Madrid saw record-breaking snowfall, the UK saw Storm Christoph deliver one of the wettest three-day periods on records… the list of extreme weather events just goes on and on.
Where water in particular is concerned, droughts and floods are now happening more often around the world, so there’s either too much or too little of it, or what there is has become too polluted. And experts expect that these issues will be rearing their heads more frequently as time goes on, with 2021 seeing a vast array of different water-related crises globally.
Floods hit China’s Henan province in July 2021, for example, trapping commuters in subway tunnels, with a year’s worth of rain seen in just three days.
The Ahyr Valley in Germany was also hit with excess water that very same month, with riverside towns submerged and farmland devastated. But in northern Kenya, seasonal rains failed to materialise sufficiently so as to keep livestock alive, while British Columbia was so affected by storms in November that landslides and floods cut off road and rail corridors.
As the World Economic Forum explains, these events and others like them now serve as a portent for the near future, with every hazard exposing just how vulnerable water systems are to climate-related shocks.
Extreme events also represent an economic risk, with countries relying on hydropower (such as Brazil) for a lot of their electricity facing shortages when rainfall decreases.
And yet, despite these challenges, people are still moving into risky areas, while land developments that drain and pave wetlands, coupled with ageing infrastructure, are failing to handle certain situations effectively.
How can communities adapt?
As important as it is for us all to mitigate the risks associated with climate change, it is also time now to accept that we must also make adaptations in order to deal with the effects of global warming as and when they happen.
The climate crisis is here and changes will need to be made in order to recover and bounce back when extreme weather events do take place.
From a community perspective, technology can be used by suppliers to monitor sewer systems and their capacity to help prevent overflows, natural solutions like beaver reintroduction and restoration of wetlands could help with flood management, and so on. But the message appears to be clear – more must be done… and faster.
What can businesses do to adapt to the water crisis?
There are various ways that businesses can evolve and adapt to the challenges posed by water stress and scarcity, and direct action can be taken across their direct operations, the wider supply chain and overall basin health.
A deeper understanding of your water footprint can be achieved by looking at your raw materials, suppliers, direct operations and product use, seeing how water is used and where.
According to Mckinsey, most of the freshwater to be found in the world can be found in 140 named basins (the single source where water falling or flowing through a region eventually ends up).
Of these named basins, 90 are considered to be highly stressed – and half of these can be found in three countries with high economic activity and huge water requirements… China, India and the US.
To help tackle the issue, businesses could reduce water stress by bringing in water measurement and reporting practices, identifying and eliminating water leaks across their operations and implementing new technologies to drive down water stress.
Where the supply chain is concerned, companies could also make the shift to renewable energy, set their own supplier standards or use water consultants to help their main suppliers identify more efficient solutions for water use.
Some businesses could also go so far as to take steps to promote water resilience, such as by signing up to the Water Resilience Coalition, launched back in 2020. At its heart is a water resilience pledge binding companies to a series of water-related goals that can be tackled by collective action in basins facing water stress.
What else can businesses do?
More specifically, there are all sorts of strategies that could be employed to help businesses of all kinds reduce their water footprint, such as having a water audit of their site carried out.
This will reveal any discrepancies or spikes in usage that could be indicative of a leak somewhere onsite, allowing repair work to be carried out. Additionally, having automated meter readers installed on the premises could help you track your usage over time, allowing you to see what changes could be brought in and where.
Other options also include rainwater harvesting, with rain falling on the roof being used in place of precious mains water supplies or grey water recycling.
Of course, these are only a few suggestions and it’s important to find the ones that are best suited to your business. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with the team here at water efficiency consultants H2o Building Services today.