In 30 years from now, about 7 in 10 people will live in cities across the globe. One of the main challenges for the governments will be to provide infrastructure and services such as housing and safe drinking water for all.
With global warming and climate change increasing the risk of floods and droughts around the world, access to clean water will be at the heart of every discussion. REVOLVE interviewed Diane D’Arras, President of the International Water Association, to talk about these challenges and the importance of raising awareness on the topic in order to create a momentum and encouraging governments and organisations to start acting now.
What are the key challenges to combating water scarcity in the Mediterranean region and worldwide? Is there a difference?
Yes, there is a difference. People do not use the same amount of water around the world — it depends where they are located. In fact, water scarcity is the relationship between the need and the availability of water, so the notion is indeed relative. Scarcity occurs if a country is not about to provide enough water for agriculture, industry, personal use and sanitation. Water scarcity is a challenge — in the sense of understanding and organisation of demand and supply of water.
What are the solutions for these water challenges?
The first solution is raising awareness with politicians, professionals and society about the importance of water. Everybody should know about water saving,in terms of sanitation as well as food. The energy sector has developed an understanding of energy saving in all areas so developing awareness and understanding we can be more water efficient. Utilities have started to bring awareness to their clients about water issues. Building consciousness is done by sharing data — not just consumption at the tap, but also water used for food production. The second solution is to develop water technologies like recycling and reusing. Many of the International Water Association (IWA) members are not in favour of recycling water for personal use, but rather reusing it for agriculture and industrial purposes.
At the EIP Water Conference 2017, you claimed that it is highly important to work together to improve water conditions. What does good collaboration mean in the water sector?
Start sharing experiences. From developing the technology over pilots and demonstration projects all the way up to commercialisation, it is necessary to spread the experience such as the constraints and next steps. There are two ways of sharing. First, it is necessary to share outcomes from research projects, for example WssTP shares knowledge about developing technology. Second, international project implementation, introducing pilots together with players from different countries, is a very good method to share knowledge. Every industry does it. The problem in the water sector is that every step takes 10 or 15 years, for example a wastewater plant. Working together can be challenging and it takes time, but in the end there is the advantage of a common buy-in and it is more likely to spread water innovations and have long-term impact.
“By developing awareness and understanding we can be more water efficient.”
How do you evaluate water scarcity coverage in the media? Do you think it should be a bigger topic?
I would be happy to see water scarcity presented by media, but it has to be done the right way. Water topics should be presented with good and simple figures. Many people do not know the price and measurement of water, such as water consumption for personal use, agriculture, industry and environment. Complex data is useless for explaining these topics and even creates fear. For effective communication, tangible figures and data are essential.
Interview by REVOLVE Media