Arup has updated its Drivers of Change Water cards, first published in 2009, to reflect the key trends and issues now shaping the future of water globally.
The Drivers of Change Water cards for 2015 explore a wide-ranging number of key issues and sets out the immense challenges the world is now facing in terms of global water resources.
According to The Times of India, 22 out of 32 major Indian cities already deal with daily water shortages, while 748 million people globally still have no access to clean, safe water. At the same time agricultural water use alone is expected to increase by at least 19% by 2050.
Introducing the updated Drivers, Arup said that issues around water are likely to impact the future shape of societies, cities, businesses and markets for decades to come.
Drivers of Change Water is intended to help groups and individuals explore and prioritise trends and issues, to discuss possible challenges and solutions, and to get a broader perspective on the current and future state of water globally.
The drivers have been organised into five categories based on their main area of impact: Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political, collectively referred to as STEEP.
Key issues flagged up by Arup include:
- Population growth – how much water will 9 billion people need? Arup says that as populations expand, demand for water will increase dramatically, be driven primarily by a growing demand for food. This is expected to increase by 70% by 2050 with associated agricultural water use, expected to increase by at least 19% by 2050.
- Urbanisation – are cities too thirsty? With the percentage of the global population living in urban areas expected to reach 66% by 2050, Arup says major concerns include over-exploitation and pollution of water sources. In addition to a shortage of reliable water supplies, the street surfaces of many cities continue to be highly impermeable to water
- Water consciousness – how much water is wasted? Growing water scarcity increases the need for more efficient water consumption, starting with consciousness at the individual and community level. Water use efficiency can be achieved through better education, behaviour change and technical efficiency.
- Novel water sources – are there untapped sources of freshwater? Highlighting the fact that between 2001 and 2011, industrial desalination capacity expanded by 276%, Arup says that while the practice is highly energy intensive, with salt water is seen as a limitless resource and with many urban centres facing water shortfalls located on coastlines, the technology is continuing to gain traction.
- Smart infrastructure – how smart are water networks? New smart systems aim to improve the efficiency and function of water infrastructure through increased automation, distributed sensor networks and geo-spatial information systems
- Waterless design – can systems function without water? Arup says companies are looking to minimise water use in their design and production processes to limit their dependency and exposure to water-based financial risks.
- Ecosystem services – how much is a local ecosystem worth? According to the Drivers, aquatic ecosystems provide immense value, including transportation, resilience, stormwater management and water filtration.
- Energy supply how much water is needed to run a power plant? Water is a critical input in the production and transmission of energy – in 2010, roughly 15% of the world’s total water withdrawals were directed to energy generation.
- Ageing infrastructure – The Drivers say that on a macro scale, the OECD estimates that by 2025, water infrastructure will be the largest recipient of infrastructure investment globally, with developed countries requiring upgrades or replacement of failing critical assets.
- Flood risk – Arup highlights a report by the World Resources Institute, the number of people affected by river flooding alone could triple between 2015-2030, affecting nearly 50M and costing the world economy roughly US$500bn.
- Groundwater depletion – depletion of groundwater reserves can lead to long-term food and water insecurity and geo-structural instability.
- Ownership models – who owns the water supply?
- Water stress – Water stress and competing interests for limited resources often lead to political turmoil at regional, national or even international levels.
Drivers of Change was conceived by Arup in the early 2000s – over the last 15 years, Arup has identified more than 250 “drivers” or topics that prompt change, with input from a wide variety of stakeholders.
The issues chosen for inclusion in the latest set of cards, which each depict a single driver, are the result of knowledge gained by the Arup from research, interviews, workshops and interaction with its global network, as well as consultation with the consultancy’s broad spectrum of specialists.
Drivers of Change Water was the first theme to be updated – the detailed 56 page set of Cards also includes invaluable information and links to an extensive range of related publications and reports.