Earth Day 2020: Water for life | Daily News


 

Earth Day 2020: Water for life

As we mark Earth Day on 22 April, we are reminded that few segments and aspects of life can function without water – be it our daily activities, industrial processes, urban sustenance, or public health. As we face the global COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of water has once again come to the forefront to ensure sanitation and hygiene in order to combat the pandemic.

Access to safe water and sanitation services are critical for the good hygiene required to stop the spread and lower the impact of the virus, with regular handwashing being a key tool. However, in most parts of our world, people struggle to get regular clean drinking water, let alone getting water to wash hands. The on-going crisis is yet another reminder of a significant portion of the world population currently lacking adequate access to basic handwashing facilities, with most of them residing in the Asia and Africa regions. Some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services, 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic hand washing facilities.

While Southeast Asia presents some positive numbers in many places, going up to 66-86% of population with access to handwashing facilities, gross inequalities in water access remains a persistent problem for a number of developing countries with rural areas and urban slums trailing far behind, leaving billions of people vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses.

While ensuring access to clean water for all communities has always been a critical matter of public health and human rights, the current crisis makes action even more urgent, especially for businesses and solution providers. Grundfos’ business strategy has always been anchored by sustainability – especially the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) and in specific, SDG 6 on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, and we have been delivering on this promise across all our on-going initiatives and solutions. Together with our partners, we provided approximately 850,000 people access to clean water in 2019, and through our new Safe Water business unit, we aim to reach 10 million people per year in water-challenged areas.

Ensuring adequate water access

The challenge of improving water access is not a new one, but it has been brought to light once more due to the COVID-19 crisis. Cooperating with water solutions providers, governments need to invest in and create responsive institutions that help provide water and sanitation services, especially to the poor and more importantly during crises. Amongst several different ways of approaching this, a key enabler can be digital water innovations.

For example, for over a decade, we have partnered with NGOs, governments, and communities to deliver customisable solutions to ensure water to everyone, no matter how complex it can be. To accelerate progress, we launched the Safe Water team, a strategic business unit focused on providing water to 10 million people per year in communities with poor access to water. A typical community water system consists of intelligent pumps, water treatment, mobile-enabled dispensing (our water ATM system called AQtap) and remote monitoring, training and capacity building locally – all a part of the journey for long-term sustainability.

It is also a time to assess how we can ensure that we have a robust water infrastructure – globally there are still areas experiencing non-revenue water, or water that is pumped and then lost or unaccounted for due to leaks in the system. Every drop counts in this crisis, and we need to ensure that we make full use of our water supply. Notably, digital water innovations can play a role here. Leaks often occur due to excessive water pressure coursing through the pipes, accelerating wear and tear and subsequently leading to leakage.

In response, we developed Demand Driven Distribution, an intelligent water management pumping solution which automatically adjusts water flow through the use of remote sensors and reduces excessive pressure in the water pipes, which in turn limits water leakages and losses.

Our finite water resources have been facing increasing pressure over the years, but even more so during the pandemic. Water consumption is expected to increase tremendously with increased handwashing and higher frequency of cleaning of public spaces and homes, putting a greater strain on the water we have. This coupled with water shortage issues faced by some countries means that Asia Pacific might be confronted with greater water scarcity as we continue fighting the virus.

While we should not look to water conservation in a way that might compromise our level of hygiene and sanitation, countries can look to alternative water sources, like water reuse. Potable and non-potable water reuse will eventually be essential to meet global demand, especially when approaches like water use efficiency and consumption reductions are maximized.

Industries, which are massive consumers of water through the processes, can look at treating and reusing wastewater instead of simply taking in new water, which in turn reduces water consumption, and further saves water for the community. Increasingly, we need to not see used water as waste, but instead as a resource that can be reused when it is treated and can be looped back into production.

In addition to reviewing ways we can reuse water to maximise our water resources, we can also look at tapping water from alternative sources such as groundwater, supply through tankers, as well as incentives for farmers to refrain from overusing water for agriculture. All these efforts can help ensure our water consumption is efficiently put to use in such times of crises.

COVID-19

The private sector can play a crucial supporting role in our fight against COVID-19, through addressing challenges that are arising from this pandemic with innovation and solutions. For example, earlier this month, Grundfos went into full-scale production to produce up to 5,000 visors, or face shields, a day to provide to frontline healthcare workers. This went out to Danish healthcare services, and we are looking into the delivery of aids to also include other countries in areas where we have production facilities. Additionally, the Poul Due Jensen Foundation (the Grundfos Foundation) pledged £25 million to support research into COVID-19.

There are also both international and national organisations that businesses can partner up and work together to share expertise, industry knowledge and insight that could help tackle these pertinent issues. For example, since 2017, we’ve partnered with international humanitarian organisation ADRA International for a 5-year campaign to provide access to clean water to 1.5 million people in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the South Pacific. The partnership aims to improve and save lives by using renewable energy and water innovation technologies to provide more efficient and sustainable water access than more traditional methods.

Businesses can also look at bringing their expertise together through strategic partnerships – for example, we signed a digital partnership framework with Siemens last year, pledging to cooperate in the development of products and solutions that will lead the way on global sustainability and make a positive impact on the UN SDGs including SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation).

None of us should have to work alone in our fight against the pandemic – the duty to provide basic water sanitation for all should be borne not only by the government, but also by private players, both individual and corporate, national as well as international. Only as a collective can we bring our strengths together to take on the many challenges that lie ahead. The writer is Regional Managing Director, Grundfos Asia Pacific


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