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Circular economy mindset can help secure a water positive future to benefit people and planet

  • Circular economy mindset can help secure water positive future to benefit people and planet

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BSI Group
BSI enables people and organizations to perform better. We share knowledge, innovation and best practice to make excellence a habit – all over the world, every day.

Levels of water scarcity are soaring in major economies including the US, as annual water use has risen by around 3,500 billion m3 globally over the last century. Action to increase water circularity through global collaboration and innovation could help tackle this. Doing so will bring wider benefits - including reducing drought risk, supporting climate goals and advancing social development to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals - according to new research by BSI and Waterwise.

Thirst for change: securing a water positive future notes that water provision and use contribute around 10% of global carbon emissions, while drought could affect as many as 75% of the world's population by 2050, meaning inaction now could be as detrimental to the planet as not tackling the climate crisis.

The report sets out the key steps that could have a positive impact, including recognizing that tackling water scarcity could be a sustainability opportunity as large as reducing climate change, making it easier for consumers to choose water-saving products and embedding a circular economy mindset.

The study by BSI, the business improvement and standards company, in partnership with Waterwise, includes an Indicator evaluating water scarcity in 40 locations, with the US receiving the highest possible rating for water scarcity. In the US only 28% of freshwater is available to be used as a resource, and the country has high levels of personal consumption and leakage per capita, with municipal water also being very cheap relative to GDP. States such as Arizona, California and New Mexico are in very challenging positions.

Just 0.5% of the water on earth is fresh water and a combination of population growth, climate change and economic development is driving demand and putting growing, unsustainable pressure on this supply. Yet, the findings come with recognition of the importance of water management. According to polling commissioned by BSI, nearly 67% of consumers and 80% of small business leaders identified clean water and sanitation as 'part of sustainability,' while half of the former and 44% of the latter placed it in the top five issues to focus global resource and effort on.

Jonathan Chocqueel-Mangan, Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer, BSI, said: "Water is one of the earth's most fundamental and precious resources. We have launched this partnership to understand more about how we can collaborate to uncover opportunities to improve water availability by providing solutions that will benefit people and planet.

"Ensuring a water-secure future could be as big an opportunity as reducing carbon emissions. As an organization focused on driving business improvement, we hope we can have a significant positive impact on society and organizations alike by advancing this debate."

Using water wisely can bring important benefits, including enabling equitable global access, protecting precious habitats and making the global community more resilient to climate change and drought. It makes a series of recommendations, including:

  • Recognize water wastage as a serious challenge - acknowledge the issue and act, with utility companies leading the way to reduce network leakage
  • Ensure it is easy to choose water-saving products and make sustainable choices – for example learning from countries including Australia, which apply mandatory product water efficiency labeling systems aligned with the relevant standard
  • Embrace innovation and make better use of data - smart meters have the potential to be a game changer
  • Encourage a water-saving culture - whether that is at home or in the workplace, and across different sectors
  • Close the loop - make water recycling and reuse the norm where possible, using techniques such as rainwater harvesting
  • Partner for impact - ultimately, all of us as water users can help address the growing challenges around water availability.

Collaboration and a move towards a water-saving culture can accelerate progress. The report sets out affordable and accessible actions to address water scarcity, including the increased use of smart meters and installing alternative water supply systems into new buildings.

Martin Townsend, Director for BSI Centre of Excellence for Sustainability, said: "Water is one of our most fundamental and undervalued resources - it is the blue thread that connects our world – and using it wisely can bring important benefits, helping us to maintain good health and a biodiverse natural environment, ensure we have sufficient food supplies and contributing to economic growth. But it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not sustainable for demand for water to continue to rise without action to ensure we are using it wisely and managing it efficiently."

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