The basic human right of accessing safe and sanitary water is the key to sustainable development. It determines livability, growth of industries, and human well-being, all of which are vital for the vibrant growth of society. Unfortunately, many marginalized groups, such as women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples and many others face various grounds for discrimination that result in challenges when it comes to retrieving safe or potable water. Frost & Sullivan sheds light on areas of innovation that have the potential to improve conventional systems and aid in efforts to leave no one behind on the worldwide journey to obtain water for everyone.
According to World Bank, with roughly 663 million people lacking access to drinking water and 2.4 billion people worldwide still lacking access to sanitation, water security is still considered to be one of the biggest global risks.
In addition, this year's World Water Day campaign notes that while many marginalized peoples are in need of accessible and reliable water resources, they commonly face additional interrelated challenges, such as population growth, climate change, and conflict, that compound this problem; a multifaceted solution is required for a truly sustainable future of water access and security.
"Potable water resources are easily disrupted or contaminated as a result of changing environmental conditions and human interference. The traditional model in delivery of drinking water and wastewater services is centralized, leaving little redundancy in place should one component in service delivery be shut down or impaired," said Seth Cutler, Principal Consultant at Frost & Sullivan. "Because of this, locations that are prone to disruption or without water services should think about new models for delivery that increase resilience."
To combat these disadvantages, Frost & Sullivan has outlined techniques and technologies that can play a significant role in making sure those in need of safe water around the globe have the necessary tools for access:
- Decentralized water supply: Unlike centralized water systems, decentralized water and wastewater systems provide a sustainable and localized option for water supply that comes with a small footprint and quick installation allowing for a plug and play model needed in many rural areas and places facing environmental degradation. With major shifts in regulatory policies already underway, adoption of decentralized systems is expected to rise in developing countries.
- Residential drinking water treatment systems: Growing urbanization and increasing concern of drinking water quality and associated health issues from questionable water supply has boosted the adoption of residential water treatment systems. Technological advances that can focus on niche purification requirements, such as differing needs in developed and developing countries, and the ease in installation, coupled with its compact size and relatively cheaper price, are key decision-making factors when identifying the right system.
- New financing models: Investment vehicles, such as public-private partnerships (PPP), have the ability to connect investors, especially local financing, to develop water services in underserved areas while offering greater confidence in stable returns moving forward. The water sector can be averse to private ownership, but PPP offers a greater level of public ownership and accountability that can help bridge these concerns.
"It is often difficult to change the conventional way of thinking and action. However, in many instances, it is this mindset that has failed marginalized groups when it comes to equitable access to safe and reliable water services. To ensure an inclusive future for water, new delivery and management methods need to be adopted to provide a greater level of resiliency," stated Cutler. "These efforts combine highly localized quick-fixes, such as residential treatment solutions, to high-redundancy systems through decentralization, and new methods of generating capital investment and accountability through PPP efforts. While a great deal of effort is needed to reach 100% coverage in water services, the solutions are very much within society's toolbox."