Daily Archives: February 1, 2016

Environmental Sustentation 19: Water

Water, water everywhere
and not a drop to drink

As we indicated in our damnation post on water, fresh water is quickly becoming the scarcest resource. While nearly 70% of the globe is covered by water, less than 2.5% of it is fresh. Moreover, only 1% of our freshwater is easily accessible, with the rest trapped in glaciers, snowfields, and the earth itself. In essence, at most 0.007% of the planet’s water is available to fuel the planet’s 7 Billion people. And the situation is only going to get worse.

By 2025, over 5 Billion people could be dealing with water scarcity issues. That’s (well) over half the planet, and, by then, a significant amount of these people will be in developed countries with the means to do something about it. Governments will have to do what it takes to ensure their people have enough water, and rather than risk revolt, they won’t care about what that does to your business.

The reality is that it’s not just we as individuals that need fresh water to drink (and, to some extent, to bathe and clean) and to grow our food (in dry climates that need irrigation), but our organizations need it too. When it comes to modern production, water is needed to clean and cool modern production plants. For example, not only is it impossible to make semiconductors and modern computer microchips in anything other than an ultra-clean facility, but ultra-pure water is required during production.

But it’s not just semiconductor and microchip plants that require clean, and sometimes ultra clean, water, it’s also data centres that use water cooling, production plants that have to clean production lines between runs, and so on.

As indicated in our damnation post, you can no longer depend on your local city infrastructure to deliver fresh, clean water to you. In many developed economies, there is not always enough water for consumers. In the southern US, municipalities often have to ban people from watering their lawn, in southern Europe, there is not enough water for agriculture, and so on. Countries where, even a decade ago, one would not expect a freshwater crisis are now experiencing water shortages.

You need to insure as soon as possible that the only fresh water required by your organizations is the fresh water your employees need to drink. Your office buildings should be updated so that only the faucets, and maybe the showers, use fresh water, the toilets should use recycled water that goes through a filtration purifier. All of your plants should be retrofitted with multi-stage filtration that includes desalination, that can take whatever water source is available — recycled water, locally pumped groundwater, and even re-routed seawater — and use that. If astronauts can survive on fully recycled water for six months or more in the space station, it’s obvious that this technology is no longer rocket science, well understood, and very affordable — and much cheaper than the skyrocketing costs to the local municipality that can be expected or the cost of a disruption because your water gets shut off during a crisis. Build your own water processing plants now, or form a cooperative with other nearby factories or large office complexes to do so, and reap the benefits later.