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How can businesses help with the clean water crisis?

The global water crisis is a matter that has to be urgently addressed, and not only by profile global organizations but also by companies of all sizes.

Clean water

Undrinkable water is an issue with which numerous societies struggle, and the first city to come to realize how valuable and sacred this simple resource is, was Cape Town. At the beginning of 2018, the city's water supplies were estimated to last for approximately three months. Since then, the water crisis in Cape Town has taken new dimensions, concerning ones. And while the Day Zero has been postponed until 2019 for the citizens of this city, the issue is not over yet. So, what is there to be done in the context in which societies are becoming unable to access simple resources for a decent and normal living?

Is there any way to expand corporate responsibility to this sphere? And what concrete steps can big and small companies take to make a sensitive difference in the clean water crisis?

Wasteful Water Consumption – Agriculture Bears the Guilt

According to a WWF research, businesses in the farming and agriculture industry are the biggest consumers of water in countries such as India, Pakistan, the USA, Australia and other locations around the globe. At a global level, the water consumption in the farming and agriculture sector is estimated at 70% of the planet's freshwater resources. The countries mentioned above are close to reaching their freshwater resource limits.

These two sectors are bigger freshwater consumers than the industry sector (approximately 20%) and the total municipal use (under 10%), at a global level.

Causes of wasteful water consumption in agriculture and farming include the following.

  • Faulty, mainly leaky irrigation systems;
  • Cultivation of thirsty crops;
  • Wasteful application and distribution of the water during the irrigation process.

To make things even worst, the low levels of political awareness, the faulty environmental policies and misdirected subsidies also contribute to accentuate the problem furthermore.

But how does wasteful water consumption in the agriculture sector changes the environment?

Maybe the most severe outcome of water abuse in the agriculture sector is depleting the ground form its water resources. When the soil is irrigated excessively, the soil salinity levels increase. This means that pesticides and other pollutants used in the sector are reaching freshwater sources: rivers, lakes, but not only. Freshwater ecosystems also have to endure quite of a burden: coral reefs are already losing their pigments because of the polluted freshwater that reaches the oceans.

All these because enterprises in the farming and agriculture sector are abusing the available water resources.

How can businesses help with the clean water crisis?

A Closer Collaboration Between Businesses and WASH

The water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in collaboration with local and global businesses could hold the answer to one of the most severe clean water crises of the century. One issue of freshwater supplies globally is the fact that in developing countries, an insignificant number of households have access to running water. More than this, in many areas where running water is available, the low quality makes it unsuitable for human consumption. For instance, Haiti is also known as a pipe less state, as a result of the frequent earthquakes that take place in the area. In fact, only one-quarter of the households in Haiti are connected to running water supplies and benefit from tap water.

Companies in the water purifying industry could collaborate more closely with local and governmental bodies and implement programs that will increase the number of households that have easy access to safe, potable water. The process of reverse osmosis could make it possible for an increasing number of families to have access to safe potable water. It is not necessary to possess advanced concepts in chemistry to comprehend reverse osmosis. This solution is a cost-effective one, such measures could be implemented at a large scale, making even unpotable resources safe for human consumption.

In many companies' case, the lack of proper water at the workplace for their employees could translate into losses of billion dollars for the company itself. Imagine a company in the food retail chain with no potable or sanitary water resources for the employees. Not only this can translate into diseases amongst employees (which normally lead to high rates of absenteeism), but also food contamination. Once contaminated, the food in the supply chain will have to be disposed of. This can lead to enormous financial losses.

Proper Sanitation at the Workplace is the Answer

Reverse Osmosis

Membranes and filtration products are incredibly affordable nowadays, and they can be easily installed on all water supplies, drinkable or not. These are usually based on a simple but highly effective filtration process, named reverse osmosis. All businesses, small or large, local or global operators, can contribute to solving the clean water crisis by installing such systems on their local water supplies. But more measures that can be successfully implemented by business for a better water, below.

  • The WASH at the Workplace Pledge should be signed and carefully implemented by all businesses.
  • Broadening employees' understanding of the sanitary standards necessary in their filed and following through with training and better implementation processes.
  • Update their supplier codes and making sure that they also follow strict clean water regulations, as contamination can appear at all supply chain levels.
  • Implement operational projects that increase population access to safe, clean water sources. Many businesses in the water filtration industry volunteer already to implement sanitation projects in less developed countries, such as Pakistan. Similar measures and collaborations should be implemented by an increasing number of businesses.
  • Crate workshops on the clean water matter and inform population, in collaboration with the authorities in force in regards to the clean water matter, as well as teaching them proper preservation strategies for the available supplies.

These strategies should allow an increasing number of households around the globe, but also employees in emerging economies have an easy access to safe water sources. Also, educating the businesses in those sectors that are big freshwater consumers on the matter will increase the global freshwater supply. Regardless, the clean water crisis is a severe one in emerging economies and a positive outcome is still expected to emerge.

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