Investing in water

By Andrew (Andy) Camphausen

According to Forbes, water scarcity is a global theme that combines demographics and climate change. There is no substitute for water. As the world’s population continues to grow and becomes wealthier, demand for water is rising fast.

According to the UN, by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be under water stress.
From human consumption to industrial and agricultural use, global demand for water and water services are expected to outpace the current supply.

The International Food Policy Research Institute suggests that there will be a 40% gap between water demand and supply over the next 15 years. We, in South Africa, are already witnessing this trend. Water scarce regions in South Africa where crops and animals are used for human consumption are already under immense pressure. The government is forced to purchase staple foods from water prosperous countries. The challenge here is that these countries know how desperate we are and the price of food is substantially increased due to the high global food demand, including from our country.

I am sure all of us have felt the pinch. In my household, I am lucky to get away with spending less than R3 000 per month on my groceries — and then it’s just the basics.

“There is no substitute for water.”

Every person drinks two to four litres of water per day and eats 2 000–5 000 litres of virtual water in the food they consume.

So how can we invest in water?

  • Our single largest challenge in this country is our failing infrastructure. How great it would be if we were to start up preventative maintenance companies and contract ourselves to both public and private enterprises? Preventative maintenance is the answer to failing infrastructure and if managed properly, the infrastructure would not fail but function as if it were brand new.
  • Look at opportunities or inventions where we don’t need the use of excessive water. I watched a programme on television recently regarding hydroponics on a considerable commercial scale. Hydroponics is self-watering and needs minimal initial water to start off. It has become big business in the US — why not also in South Africa? 
  • Switch to renewable energy, such as solar and wind that use very little water, as it is crucial in reducing demand for water.
  • Expand water supply by investing in exploration, desalination, and wastewater plants. This could develop new water infrastructure and create sustainable and reliable supply systems.
  • Educate ourselves, and then the public at large, on water saving and sustainable solutions. This can form part of our maintenance plumbing service to our customers. For example, if a customer calls to unblock their drain, a simple walk around the house with a checklist of potential water wasting devices can be brought to the attention of the homeowner. Thus, your company may get more work than just the call-out. In doing so, we are all contributing to the water supply issues in which we currently find ourselves.

The plight for water and water security is now an everyday reality and we as the plumbing fraternity can and must play a part in the solution.

If we, as water related service professionals, do not take heed of the immense opportunities afforded to us, who will?


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