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Introduction

In a world where water is readily available, it is hard to realize that without quality water, a country’s prosperity is at risk. In this article, I raise matters that speaks to two main audiences.

Firstly, to the citizens of the world as I suggest some changes that should take effect if our planet is to stay prosperous. I give a strong example about Belgium and secondly, I urge the strong need for political bodies to focus on the different challenges that are at our doorstep. Additionally, I will make recommendations in the hope that the world understands and adapts to a new way of behaving towards our future blue gold.

To that end, I encourage you to start reading this article and to react upon it. I encourage you to read it fully in order to understand the current challenges at-hand and to sense the suitable solutions to the current global water crisis we are facing.

The challenges

The World’s Situation

The entire world is undergoing major changes. With many countries and cities suffering from water scarcity, water inequalities and at times poor sanitation, the situation is quickly escalating to a global water crisis.

While threatening each individual on the planet, the crisis also affects industries. I will mention here an article published by The telegraph, which reported that Vittel, the French village where the famous water brand is bottled, could no longer pump enough water out for production because of its limited availability.

Looking at the bigger picture, all factors are being inter-connected to the way we use and drink freshwater. For example: using freshwater for taking showers, flushing toilets, washing our cars but also the single-use plastic bottles. It should be no surprise that we suffer from an increasing environmental pollution progressively making freshwater unclean and becoming scarcer.

Consequently, it should be mandatory for the whole (bottled) water industry to focus on a sustainable approach focusing on adapted systems that are already in place to reduce environmental pollution but also for political bodies to implement sustainable water policies.

A deeper look into freshwater

Almost 72% of our planet is covered by water. If we take into consideration that only 2.5% of this is freshwater, of which 70% is unprocurable for exploitation, we reach a water availability of barely 0.8% available water for human-use. It still is, however, a very huge amount of water availability in absolute numbers, but when considering the process of obtaining a 1kg steak (requiring 15,000L of water) it is not difficult to realize that water is to become the newest blue gold and that we need to find solutions to preserve it.

If we are to maintain a country’s prosperity, it will require everyone to get on board – emphasizing on decision-makers whom should give prompt attention to the water challenges facing agriculture, the industries and households.

Belgium and the Flanders – A closer look.

As reported by the Allianz Global Wealth Report (2018), Belgium is the 5th country with the highest average net financial assets per capita (€93,580). With Belgium having the largest income equality in the world and with Flanders holding a GDP/capita of 40% higher than the  one of Wallonia, we can say that Flanders is one of the most prosperous population in the world. An allegation that is not always recognized by my fellow Belgian citizens.

Consentaneously, an alarming statement made by the European Environment Agency announced that Belgium is now considered one of the highest water-stressed areas of Europe partly due to an abstract amount of factors. The main ones include;

  • The Rain, Population growth and Climate change: It does not rain as much as one would think in Belgium when considering Belgium’s population density, its colossal and expanding industrial activities (the outcome of our great wealth). The changing climate, and the 21st century predictions will have a negative effect on the rain water availability in Belgium. Mentioning here the Climate Change Post, which recorded that the expected precipitation will probably decrease in the future, with the summer precipitation expected to decrease of up to 70% in between 2071-2100.
  • The Current water politics: Water scarcity is said to be caused by political motives. Indeed, insufficient amounts of water generate a rise in price benefitting public water companies that contribute to an increasing revenue for the state in charge . It is important to understand that public companies are not to blame as politicians  neglect the education of our people focusing on sustainable development and solutions. This element adds up to the insecurity of water availability threatening the prosperity of Belgium.
  • Facility Management: In a region where prosperity is so high, facilities are taken for granted. The current tap-water situation in Belgium allows us to get perfect and healthy drinking water with flow rates of 12 to 15L/min from the tap. If you take in consideration the fact that 80% of the water, we use to wash our hands, never touches our skin, we may wonder whether we will continue to wash our hands this way…

Although these figures are alarming, they do not have to scare us as humans are very resourceful in finding solutions when major challenges arise. As a matter of fact, solutions do already exist…

The solutions

Africa as an example – A Decentralized and Sustainable approach

Africa has been pioneering when investing in decentralized and sustainable solutions for its society. “The law of the handicap of a head-start”   is how Africa operates – where those who invest later, learn from what the first could have done better and can therefore use a more efficient technology. A clear example is when looking at the telco and electricity industry, Africa had poorly invested in fixed-phone networks and large central power plants but on the other hand, focused on mobile networks and decentralized energy generation powered mostly by renewable energy sources. Another great example happened as early as 2008, Rwanda prohibited plastic bags and foil usage. The law of the handicap of a head-start is giving us the trigger to start re-circulating and re-using water.

The trend happening in Flanders

Flanders is gradually following this trend. With many entrepreneurs aiming at developing young companies with a business plan focusing on sustainability. Start-ups are becoming the driving force behind the migration from wasting water to a circular economy where water use and water re-use are a focal point.

In-line with this movement, projects are set-up with the objective of building-up this circular water economy, in which water is purified locally and drinking water is produced from this very same water offering a sustainable solution for everyone. Even so, many people are not psychologically ready to implement such a process the same happens in nature only over a longer period of time.

A Circular Water Economy?

The circular water story is technologically ready to take away many of the established values from bottled water companies but you might wonder what it means;

  • As an individual: A decentralized approach where your plastic bottle will be replaced by 100% biodegradable bottles. This means that the footprint involved in the production of your bottle will decrease as will the purchase price of that same bottle due to cost–efficiency in re-using the bottle. There will be no need to fly water bottles from one country to another as the water will be produced locally, from a local source and with renewable energy reducing also all the logistic costs.
  • At a household or an industrial level: Pressure on pipeline networks will be adjusted downwards to reduce water flows, you will start re-circulating water (e.g. rinsing-water and/or shower-water will be re-used to flush toilets) before it goes to your local water purification.

Although there are many uncertainties regarding our future, we can assume that if we do not take the necessary actions regarding water management policies, we face an even bigger challenge.

 Adapting our actions

In order to overcome the current challenges, the world needs a change in mentality where water will be distributed more efficiently and where people are aware of its preciousness. This can be achieved by indulging everyone in having a different perception of the future:

  • As individuals we will be adjusting our daily-attitudes towards water. Changes that are already happening with the current younger generation. Changes where;
    • A bath becomes a luxury moment,
    • We cook with pots and pans that require a minimum amount of water-use to get tasty dish,
    • We wash our cars through special “dry-cleaning”,
    • Children will play with water in environments where every single drop of water will be collected to be re-used,
    • Rainwater will be collected as often as possible for water re-use.
  • With the help of politicians who will adapt their policies in regards to two main industries:
    • Facility Management policies: Putting a stricter policy punishing those who use more water than the average for production by implementing a rule where the price per liter of water consumed will rise if consumption rises. The industry will, then, massively focus on water re-use in their processes making water less scarce.
      • Resulting in water-saving having a double impact on the invoice. Consume more = spending relatively more, reversely, consume less = spend relatively less.
    • The Plastic Bottled Water Industry: Banning single-use plastic, adopting technologies recycling plastics, increasing taxes on bottled water imports. Encouraging consumers to go for solutions where water will be recycled and filtered locally giving them the opportunity to invest in a a future-proof technology.
      • Resulting in a decreasing plastic, CO2 pollution but increasing water availability worldwide.

BOSAQ | Overcoming global water challenges

 

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