Global Water Scarcity and the Challenges to Businesses

Water Scarcity Set to Worsen

Water scarcity is one of the greatest, and most serious issues facing the world. According to WWF, around 1.1 billion people worldwide do not have safe access to drinking water. At the same time, an astonishing 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.

Unfortunately, this problem is only going to get worse with demand expected to outstrip supply by more than 50% by 2025. The severe shortage of fresh water can largely be attributed to climate change, while rising population, rapid urbanisation and expanding incomes are also playing an instrumental part.climate change impact

Climate Change Impact

Climate change is a phenomenon we can no longer ignore. Its impacts are becoming more and more apparent worldwide. It has negative implications for both water resource security and agricultural production. Even more so in areas of the world that are already struggling with shortages.

The earth’s average temperature has steadily risen in the last century. Sixteen of the seventeen warmest years on record have taken place since 2001. So, it’s to be expected that if the temperature continues to increase, this will have damaging effects on our fresh water supplies.  The increase in temperate will result in evaporation rates accelerating. This will lead to a wetter atmosphere and the intensification of droughts.

Equally, persistently higher temperatures have led to ice glaciers (which are an important source of fresh water) to melt at an unprecedented rate. Melting ice glaciers have the potential to significantly raise global sea levels. Additionally, once they have melted away they can’t be restored.  Many people depend on ice glaciers as a fresh water source, particularly during periods of dry spells. Therefore, if they are taken out of the equation it could have detrimental effects.

Urbanisation and Water Shortages

While natural factors such as droughts and limited freshwater reserves can cause scarcity, the effect of urbanisation and population growth also needs to be considered. Population growth intensifies the demand for water for food production, household consumption and industrial purposes.

Yet, at some point, this growing demand becomes overuse, and in turn will lead to the depletion of groundwater levels. In addition to the surface and ground water supplies drying up, the quality will also significantly deteriorate. This is because of chemical changes in soil layers.

It doesn’t help that the majority of the world’s population growth in upcoming years will be congregated in urban areas.  Especially in less developed regions. Urbanisation imposes additional pressures on water supplies due to people becoming more concentrated in relatively small areas. Additionally, rising per capita water consumption fuelled by development further aggravate water demand and put pressure on local water capacity.

Disruption to Supply Chainswater scarcity

Water scarcity and pollution presents a significant risk to companies, with the potential to disrupt their operations and supply chains in several ways. Even companies that have operations in water-abundant countries can be exposed to water scarcity. That’s because most companies have a supply chain that spans across many locations and countries across the globe.

Declines or interruptions in water supply can have negative implications for manufacturing operations. Industry relies heavily on water for production, diluting, cooling, material processing, facility sanitation and the transportation of products.

Stringent Regulations Threat

Many businesses also face the threat of a stringent regulatory approach. For instance, increased water prices, reduced water allotment or even compulsory water-saving technology. As concerns regarding water pollution gain momentum, this could also lead to costly requirements for companies’ wastewater discharges.

Additionally, brands face the risk of their company’s reputation being tarnished, as the public and media gradually become more aware that many companies contribute to unsustainable water usage.  Reputational risks are a hidden danger, that can jeopardise even the most well-run and established companies.

What Can Businesses Do?

In order to mitigate the impact of water scarcity, many businesses are already assessing their water footprint.  In other words, they are evaluating their direct water use and indirect water footprint in their value chain.reducing water consumption

Environmental sustainability has become an integral part of the business strategy and operations in many industries. Many businesses have implemented long term response strategies focused on improving their water-use efficiency. Some businesses are even turning these water risks into a competitive advantage and are becoming industry leaders in water stewardship.

It’s imperative that organisations have water reduction initiatives embedded throughout their whole supply chain. Even more so in areas suffering from critical water scarcity. We mentioned in a previous article the route that businesses might take to reduce their water usage. This includes implementing water meters throughout their processes, and educating their staff on water usage best practices.

Reducing Water Usage Through Pigging

Product recovery, often referred to as pigging, is used widely in process industries. As well as increasing profitability and delivering high ROI, the environmental benefits of pigging for companies that process liquids are substantial.  Once implemented, a high-quality solution will reduce water consumption, minimise waste and cleaning fluids, reduce power consumption and will improve process efficiency.

As an example, HPS implemented an innovative pigging solution for Wickham Hill Winery in Australia. This and additional projects carried out by HPS at the winery have equated to them saving over 40 million litres of water per annum. Our solution also increased their wine yield by over 400,000 litres per annum.

Let’s not forget about the other benefits of pigging systems. For instance, they greatly increase yields and recover up to 99.5% of residual product from the line. In addition to this, pigging can speed up changeover times, improve process efficiency and can help reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint.

Find Out More

For more information about reducing water usage and enhancing your environmental credentials through pigging and product recovery solutions, please contact HPS.