The Drop Store: A Stark Image Of A Water-Scarce Future

Water efficiency - H2O Building Services


One of the most pressing issues of the climate emergency is the water crisis, but it’s one of the least discussed aspects of climate breakdown… which is certainly interesting when you consider that water underpins every part of life in the 21st century and, without it, industry would grind to a halt, food production would falter, ecosystems would perish and it would ultimately spell the end of it all.


Water stress and scarcity doesn’t just put access to safe drinking water at risk, it also makes it difficult to prioritise health and hygiene at home, in schools and in healthcare settings. Scarcity of supply also makes resources more expensive, as well as impacting food production and reducing output, which consequently pushes these prices up as well.


If the water crisis is allowed to progress along its current trajectory, many food products would vanish from shelves and we would enjoy far less diversity of offerings and far fewer avenues for nutrition… and this is something that the new Drop Store is aiming to raise awareness of to help people understand the full implications of global water stress and scarcity.


To mark this year’s UN Water Conference, which took place in New York between March 22nd and 24th, the Netherlands’ Department Ministry of Foreign Affairs commissioned design agency Publicis Groupe Benelux to create a range of conceptual supermarket products revealing what life could potentially look like in a water-scarce world.


The packaging features small amounts of food and discoloured water, displayed with fictitious prices and realistic branding… including a small 35g pack of corn for $129, described on the packet as being a “super offer”.


Other labels display the types of water-related events that would lead to the rise of certain products, such as drought for bug protein production, when there is insufficient water for livestock.


Of course, it’s not just drought that we need to be concerned about and too much water can cause serious issues, as well.


Since 2000, flood-related disasters have climbed by 134 per cent, having a huge impact on crops, livestock, property and human life, not to mention an increase in waterborne diseases and malnutrition. It can take communities months and even years to recover from floods.


From a food perspective, flooding affects how food is grown. For example, too much water can have an impact on crop yield, lead to soil erosion and cause nutrient depletion, as well as spreading chemicals and pollutants around local communities.


Although there is a lot of water on earth, only around three per cent is fresh – and most of this is stored below ground or trapped in ice. Sadly, increasing amounts of freshwater resources around the world are now being contaminated with plastic, waste and chemicals, which can have a negative impact on crops by making them unsafe to eat or stunting their growth.


Aquatic life can also be affected by pollution and contaminants, which can lead to imbalances in their ecosystems and disruptions to their food chain, which can mean that many species will die out completely.


Discussing The Drop Store and what a supermarket experience could look like in the future, Publicis chief operating officer Eduardo Marques told Dezeen magazine: “There is water in everything we eat and consume in our lives. So instead of having nutrition facts on the labels of the product, we actually have how many litres of water you need to produce that type of product.”


The actual water products included in the project appear in the supermarket labelled as either regular or pure. The regular vials contain murky brown water, while the pure vials are clear – but these are only very small, with just 15ml of water contained in each one.


Mr Marques went on to say: “I think that will be the face of regular water in the future if we don’t take action. Drinkable water and pure clean water will be very, very scarce. That’s the message. We want people to understand that this is going to be a luxury in the future.”


How can this be prevented?


In order to avoid the stark realities proposed in The Drop Store, it’s essential that we take action now to reduce pressure on freshwater supplies around the world – and this will involve better management of resources, changes in diet, pollution prevention in water basins and better conservation of wastewater.


While it’s true to say that every individual has a role to play in reducing their own personal water footprint, it is industry and business that will have the most significant impact in helping to ease the water crisis.


Industries will be affected by water shortages in a range of different ways. Sectors that depend most heavily on water (such as food and drink, power generation, mining and high technology) will bear the brunt initially, of course, but water is an essential resource for businesses, either directly for their operations or indirectly through the supply chain.


Corporate impacts will vary depending on what the business is and where it operates, but domestic demand will always be put ahead of industrial requirements, so building resilience into your business model will likely prove beneficial in the future.


It’s also certainly worth bearing in mind the reputational risk of not addressing your water usage and consumption, as consumers are increasingly becoming more discerning about who they spend their money with… and if you don’t have solid green credentials backing you up, you could see your business suffer as a result.


A good first step to take as a business to help you reduce your water usage is to have a water audit carried out across your site. This will reveal any weak and vulnerable areas that you could improve to help prevent wastage and ensure that you’re prioritising water efficiency across your company.


If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with the H2o Building Services team today.