Connecting Waterpeople
Print Edition Nº 2 - June 2020

Opportunities are out there

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Content summary

A few months have passed since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and it is now easier to assess the impact of the crisis on societies, economies and of course, the water sector.

Across the globe, the water sector has responded with service excellence, ensuring the water supply for domestic, health care, commercial and industrial uses during the lockdown. In some countries, immense efforts have been made to supply people who lived without regular access to safe water.

The health crisis has shed a light on the vital role water plays in people’s lives. Before the pandemic, the global water crisis was a silent one. We must now use this pandemic as a catalyst to accelerate our goal of achieving universal access to water and basic sanitation. However, this will not be an easy task, as the pandemic will turn global economic growth “sharply negative” this year, also impacting the water industry.

The second issue of SWM Monthly explores some of these issues, including trends in digitalization, the ongoing climate crisis, and business opportunities in these uncertain times.


The new EU regulation on water reuse will facilitate the use of this alternative water source in Member States, creating thousands of new jobs.

With human migration increasing, we examine the nexus between migration, climate change and water stress.

Water scarcity is an increasingly frequent and worrying phenomenon in Europe. We analyse the importance of good management to combat this reality.

DuPont announces a partnership with charity: water to help hinder the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable communities around the world.


Carlos Cosín, CEO of Almar Water Solutions.

  • With the acquisition of a stake in the Muharraq wastewater treatment plant, we have been able to consolidate our portfolio of assets
  • Shuqaiq III will supply water to 1.8 million people, contributing to the economic and industrial development of Saudi Arabia
  • We are well known in the area of desalination in the global water market, but we also have vast experience in wastewater treatment and reuse
  • We have established our services platform in another region to be able to grow and expand O&M and services contracts in Latin America
  • The effort we are making to replicate our model in other regions is a collective, team effort, and we hope to see the results very soon
  • The water market, specially the municipal market, has not suffered the effects of the crisis and can be considered a safe haven
  • Private companies want to be in the front line and help develop the entire network of infrastructure required for citizens and industry


Rich Thorsten, Chief Impact Officer at

  • The water and sanitation community talks extensively about innovative finance that blends donor contributions with commercial capital
  • works with microfinance providers to extend affordable financing solutions for safe water and sanitation to the poor
  • Those living in extreme poverty may not be able to participate in financing, an area in which we encourage public investment
  • We support efforts that address this health crisis, cushion its effects, and bolster countries’ abilities to prevent future pandemics
  • People are willing to pay for water and sanitation, and the benefits impact their ability to educate themselves, work and consume
  • We all know that our future is digital, and investment can be harnessed to make our systems more efficient across several criteria
  • Based on household visits, more than 90% of water and sanitation improvements have been found to be functional at the time of the visits
  • Investments from public and private sectors will depend on effective financial markets and a favourable policy and regulatory environment


Mr CL Wong, Director of Water Supplies, Water Supplies Department, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China

  • Key initiatives are the use of lower grade water for non-potable purposes and the construction of the Tseung Kwan O Desalination Plant
  • We strengthen the culture of water conservation in Hong Kong through proactive promotion, education and community engagement
  • People in Hong Kong are now more aware of the importance of water conservation as revealed by the public opinion survey in 2015/16
  • 280 mcm per annum of seawater is supplied for flushing, conserving an equivalent amount of freshwater, 20% of total consumption
  • Supply of seawater for flushing only requires pumping and minimal treatment, and thus, its cost is much lower than that of the freshwater
  • Freshwater use has been contained at 1,000 mcm over 10 years notwithstanding a 0.7% population growth rate per annum and economic growth
  • If the situation deviates from present climate projections, we can overcome the challenges with backup options to ensure water security
  • We will continue to review the expansion of the supply of lower grade water to other areas that still use freshwater for flushing
  • We must manage our water resources in a sustainable way through looking at the two sides of the balance on both the demand and supply


Adam Lovell, Executive Director, Water Services Association of Australia

  • WSAA is working with the Monash Institute of Sustainable Futures to progress understanding of the impact of water utilities on the SDGs
  • In recent years, several of our members have used the SDG Framework as a strategic lens to develop their strategic business plans
  • The urban water industry still faces risks and challenges including drought, population growth, urbanisation, and climate change
  • In 2017, SA Water implemented the first stage of its smart water network, integrating more than 400 sensors across the Adelaide CBD
  • Balance sheets across Australia are already showing the effects of meeting these challenges while minimising the impacts on customers
  • WSAA considers a national response is required to ensure that the industry retains a strong degree of financial resilience


Claire Baffert, Senior Water Policy Advisor at WWF

  • Under the WFD any project that would lead to the deterioration of a water body requires a comprehensive assessment of all alternatives
  • Currently, 53% of EU rivers and lakes are covered by at least one exemption, many of which are to get approval for more hydropower plants
  • According to the European Environmental Agency, the main pressure on rivers and lakes comes from alterations to the river flow or shape
  • A recent WWF report revealed that, despite Europe already being saturated with hydropower plants, 8,785 additional plants are planned
  • We were disappointed that the EU Biodiversity Strategy did not tackle the urgent need to eliminate biodiversity-harmful subsidies
  • 6,000 scientists highlighted the critical role of the WFD in halting and reversing the decline in Europe’s freshwater biodiversity
  • Dam removal enables biodiversity to bounce back remarkably quickly and has many other benefits for resilience to climate change


Dragan Savic, CEO of KWR Water Research Institute and Chair of IWA Digital Water Programme’s Steering Committee

  • The COVID-19 outbreak has given impetus to the water industry and their research providers worldwide to collaborate on these issues
  • The importance of the availability, accessibility and sharing of data, tooling and computational resources have become more evident
  • Like all sectors, ours has found out that working at a distance using digital tools works for almost all roles in our organizations
  • Water utilities have been aware of cybersecurity concerns and have gone a long way towards reducing risks to increasing security levels
  • I believe that the consequence of the pandemic will be felt in the industry over a prolonged period, at least for a couple of years


Frederick Royan, Vice President – Global Leader, Sustainability and Circular Resource Ecomomy ATLAS at Frost & Sullivan

  • Water utilities are looking to operate in a new normal in the prevailing scenario of COVID-19 at least for the next 12 to 18 months
  • We will also expect an accelerated focus on the smart city transformation with a greater impetus on water, mobility, and energy
  • There has been an evolution in the digitalisation of operational monitoring in water utilities as we have witnessed in leading utilities
  • The communication protocols will play an even more significant role as we witness even more investment in sensors in the broader water
  • IIoT-based asset management enhances both economic and environmental sustainability of water infrastructure with a holistic approach
  • One of the key fundamental drivers of digitalisation in the water industry will be the communication protocols, an essential role
  • Vodafone and Huawei have had a pioneering role in pursuing the NB-IoT solution and its deployment in regions of APAC and Europe
  • COVID-19 has highlighted that digitalisation in the water sector is set to be a key focus in developed and emerging markets


Jeroen M. Tielman, Founder & Managing Partner of QStone Capital

  • Of the global asset management market of US$80 trillion, about $30 trillion is managed according to some form of sustainable standards
  •  The current health crisis underlines that individual basic health is even more important than before to increase one’s resilience
  • Treating wastewater for reuse and mining specific ‘pollutants’ for reuse provide an investment opportunity for professional investors
  • We only apply two criteria when assessing investment opportunities at grass-root level: risk-return and unambiguous SDG6 compliance
  • Public entities can provide guarantees on risks that cannot be hedged in private markets at reasonable rates like off-take and political risks
  • We need development of investable projects and to identify specific ‘water & climate’ themes to be addressed with climate related financing
  • Investors can redefine their role from selecting opportunities developed by others, towards being a ‘producer’ of their own investments


Henrika Thomasson, Director of Communications, Stockholm International Water Institute

  • If we would apply a water lens to critical challenges, we would find a number of cost-effective solutions. Follow the water!
  • Powerful communication is emotional. It is only when we are touched that we will connect with a message and change our behaviour

Opinion articles

  • Ana Barreto Albuquerque, Executive Board Member at ERSAR, & Sara Ismail, Communications Manager at ERSAR
  • John Robinson, Partner, Mazarine Ventures
  • Mike Joy, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies. Victoria University Wellington
  • Raha Hakimdavar, PhD, Hydrologist
  • Samista Jugwanth, Zutari: eThekwini Water Lead
  • Will Sarni, Water Foundry, Founder and CEO


Schneider Electric
Almar Water Solutions
We Are Water Foundation
DuPont Water Solutions