“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.”
~ Jacques Yves Cousteau (1910-1997)
Question: What can be done about the dwindling supply of fresh water in the world?
Answer: The earth is a closed-water system meaning that the earth does not lose or gain water over time. Our population however continues to grow, placing greater demands on the water supply. The United Nations (UN) reports that in 1927 there were approximately two billion people in the world, and in 2017 we were roughly 7.6 billion. Water covers 70% or our planet with only 2-3% of that being fresh water according to the World Wildlife Fund. Two-thirds of that amount is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for use. The UN also documents that water withdrawal is predicted to rise by 50% in developing nations and 18% in developed nations by 2025. As the standard of living in many emerging markets improves, the demand for protein sources other than grains shifts to meat, seafood and dairy based products that require greater water to produce. It takes approximately 760 gallons of water for a quarter pound of beef, 200 gallons for the flour for the bun, and if you add fries to your order, it’s another 100 gallons of H2O for a potato. Let’s not even think about how much water it takes to grow tomatoes for the ketchup! Soybeans, which are a staple of life for many in emerging markets, need only five gallons of water per gram of protein in contrast to the 29.6 gallons that is needed for a gram of beef protein. It’s no surprise that our diets are the biggest contributor to personal water consumption. The Huffington Post states that agricultural production accounts for 92% of our water footprint in this article: www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/13/food-water- footprint_n_5952862.html.
The scarcity of fresh water has always been a world problem. Population growth and economic development in emerging markets increase demand which leads to higher costs for this limited commodity. Governments and corporations are paying more attention to the situation. Awareness of a company’s water use can have an impact on its sales, growth and profitability and there is a social responsibility to provide water for a minimum quality of life. Technology and Science Lead the Way “Breaking Bad” was a hit TV show running from 2008-2013. In the show Jesse Pinkman’s character exclaimed, “Yeah Mr. White! Yeah Science!” at one point using science for evil rather than for good. We’ll say “Yeah Science” because the latest scientific advancements are improving how communities reuse water for drinking, irrigation and industrial processes.
There are two types of water reuse; non-potable for purposes other than drinking, such as industrial uses, agriculture, or landscape irrigation. Non-potable reuse also includes using reclaimed water to create recreational lakes, and building or replenishing wetlands that support wildlife. Potable reuse projects are for drinking water and all other purposes. Potable projects use highly treated reclaimed wastewater to supplement those supplies.
Water reuse solutions have become a prime focus for U.S. municipal utilities. In 2015, Bluefield Research followed 247 water reuse projects across 11 states. By 2017, the number grew to 775 across 19 states. According to their research, wastewater recycling is expected to increase by 37% by 2027. About half the nations’ potable reuse systems have come online in the past decade.
The National Water Resources Association (NWRA) compiles details on municipalities including the fact that St. Petersburg, Florida municipalities began building large-scale non-potable reuse systems in the 1970 and now report that reclaimed water meets 40% of the city’s total water demand. NWRI also states that the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County have been using reclaimed water for their potable water supply since 1962. In February 2018, Orange County converted over 100 million gallons of wastewater into potable water in 24 hours.
Higher water prices and stricter regulations won’t fix the problem. Luckily, technology companies are prepared to assist. For more than 10 years a company in the Netherlands has been delivering electrochemical water-conditioning equipment to institutional, commercial and industrial customers. The process uses electricity to remove dissolved salts from water at lower economic and environmental costs than other available technology. Toronto is home to a start- up company providing reuse management solutions specifically to high water use commercial and residential buildings. Pittsburgh is where the global leader in water technology for municipalities and industrial customers to protect and improve the world’s water is located. Their cost-effective and reliable treatment systems provide uninterrupted quantity and quality of water while meeting regulatory and environmental compliance.
Despite the public’s perception of potable water, and the cost of implementing a water reuse program, global adoption (and acceptance) of water reuse continues to grow. Water reuse revenue growth is expected to be 29% on average in the 12 months ending June 30, 2018. No matter what drives the need to recycle and reuse wastewater, everyone agrees that decreasing one’s water footprint is beneficial to companies and communities alike. What we do next matters. Science and technology will lead the way. Stay focused and plan accordingly.
All investments are subject to risk. The opinions expressed are those of the writer, but not necessarily those of Raymond James and Associates, and subject to change at any time. Information from outside sources is expected to be accurate but not guaranteed.
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This article provided by Darcie Guerin, CFP®, Vice President, Investments & Branch Manager of Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC, 606 Bald Eagle Dr. Suite 401, Marco Island, FL 34145. She may be reached at 239-389-1041, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.raymondjames.com/Darcie.