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As Climate Week drew to a close last month, the media and sustainability experts lauded the private sector for its can-do attitude towards addressing climate change. That level of action is especially welcome coming from the thousands of companies calling for a global price on carbon.
That increasing level of commitment and action from companies must also be applied to water scarcity challenges. From droughts in California and Ohio to the continuing water shortages in India, water scarcity will become only more pressing and affect billions more people with each passing year.
The World Economic Forum has identified “water crises” as one of the top 10 issues (PDF) of greatest concern to the global economy in 2014, two steps above “failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation” and the third highest risk ranked overall.
A 2012 study found that from 1995-2005 at least 2.67 billion people — over one third of the world’s population — already were living in water basins that experience severe water scarcity at least one month a year. Population growth will exacerbate stress placed on existing basins to meet the demands of agriculture, energy and industry, and a growing urban population that expects abundant and clean flows of water every time it turns on the tap.
In SustainAbility’s September report, Evaporating Asset: Water Scarcity and Innovations for the Future, developed with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, we explored the urgency of water scarcity and some of the most innovative approaches to address it. While there is no silver bullet for what Deloitte’s enterprise water strategy director, Will Sarni, so aptly describes as a “wicked problem,” there is a critical need to find better solutions and pursue smarter collaborations to stay a step ahead.