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Water Risk: What’s Causing Increased Water Demand?

Water is a critical asset to communities and business. With it, our communities thrive and our economy prospers. Yet, we put our communities, environment and economy at risk when demand outstrips supply.

We’re at a tipping point. Though businesses can play a leading role in mitigating the water issue, not only reducing their own risk, but reducing the risk for our communities, environment and economy.

Water, now

Between 2025 and 2050, we’ll need more than 3.4 billion litres of extra water every day. That’s over 1000 Olympic swimming pools, for England alone, just to meet demand. Stuart Sampson from The Environment Agency highlighted that unless proactive action is taken, the UK will simply run out of water by 2045.

Over the last 100 years, global water use has increased nearly 8 times. By 2050, more than half of the world’s population could experience severe water scarcity for at least some of the year.

But what’s causing this increased demand? And how will it impact your business?

Economic development

All industries rely on water. Food and beverage manufacturers use water as an ingredient in products, but also to irrigate, rinse, and clean crops, and to feed livestock. The hospitality industry relies on water to deliver its services and ensure customer needs and expectations are met. In the tech industry, ultrapure water is required for certain manufacturing processes, and data centres require water for cooling. The list goes on.

As our wealth increases, so too does our demand for water. Industrial, agricultural, societal and domestic water use is increasing in line with economic development.

Without water, our economy will run dry. Water is the lifeblood of our economic growth and your business success. Water scarcity and uncertain water availability is a challenge that we face right now – directly impacting the growth of our global economy. As economies grow, so will the assets, economic activities and populations facing water risks.

Increased wealth creates a demand and opportunity for enhanced water services, greater protection from water risks, and improved environmental quality.

Rising temperatures

The World Meteorological Organisation reports a growing chance that global temperatures will break the 1.5˚C threshold over the next five years. Water will be a central part of the fallout from this. Even in ‘rain-soaked Britain’, the availability of usable water increasingly hangs in the balance as each year passes.

Although most of the planet is covered in water, only 3% of Earth’s water is freshwater. However, 2.5% is unavailable: locked up in glaciers, ice caps, atmosphere, and soil; highly polluted; or lies too far under the Earth’s surface.

As warmer temperatures increase in frequency, groundwater recharge is affected, causing a reduction in the availability of freshwater. Subsequently increasing the competition for water resources – placing a greater strain on the balance between supply and demand.

What is groundwater recharge?

Groundwater recharge is the process of surface water drawing down to groundwater and entering (recharging) natural aquifers.

Growing population

The global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.

It’s no surprise that as the world’s population grows, the demand for water mounts and pressure on our water resources intensifies. Water use has been growing globally at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. As the population grows, competition for water for domestic, industrial, and municipal uses increases.

Urbanisation leads to increased pressure on freshwater resources as people become more concentrated in one area through the transformation of once natural landscapes to urban water-impervious lands, which limits available freshwater resources.

Water intensive lifestyles

As our economy grows and GDP increases, so too does the demand for domestic water consuming appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, flushing toilets and showers. All of which contribute to an increase in water use and heightened demand.

When living standards improve, people typically eat more meat. PETA suggests that per person, the eating of meat results in the consumption of 15,000 litres of water a day. Most of the world’s water is currently used to produce food and that is likely to still be the case in 2050.

Not to mention, an increase in disposable income and therefore the onset increase in freshwater use for leisure and hospitality. Water parks, golf courses, swimming pools and gyms all require water to function. And with more time nowadays for leisure activity, water use to fuel these activities subsequently rises.

Diagram displaying water consumed for different daily activities

Think you know water? Take the water quiz to test your knowledge and learn more about the UK’s position.
Take the water quiz to test your knowledge

The impact on your business

Two-thirds of businesses have substantial water risk in direct operations or in their value chain. In the 2019 Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Water Disclosure report, 45% of companies reporting to investors or customers report exposure to substantive risks from water insecurity – risks that threaten their reputation and license to operate, the security of their supply chains, financial stability and their ability to grow. Of these risks, 40% are anticipated to hit within the next 1-3 years.

Have you ever considered your business without water? The likelihood is you’ve got 30 minutes before your operations and your staff start grinding to a halt. A day and you’re in crisis management mode. A week, customer confidence and financial targets are impacted, and corporate reputation is at stake.

Water is as important to your business as data, or your staff. It’s a critical asset to your business and our communities. Through proactive action, businesses can combat the water crisis, reduce their risk, futureproof operations and safeguard long-term success.

Don’t get caught off guard. To learn more about what you can do to protect your business and our community, and the 3 steps you can take right now, click here.