Global challenges in the water sector

Schneider Electric

Monday, 14 June, 2021

Global challenges in the water sector

By 2030, we will face a global deficit of 40% of water in an identical climate scenario — or even worse — than the one we are facing now. This trend is due to a combination of three factors — population growth and demographic change, urbanisation and climate change. To put this into context, the world’s total population is estimated to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050. At the same time, water consumption is increasing by 2.5% per year faster than the world’s population growth.

Energy and sustainability in the water industry

The water sector consumes 4% of electricity worldwide. If you look at one of the biggest operating costs — electricity — the savings potential becomes significant. Reducing energy expenditure will achieve greater synergies.

Organisations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) or the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are demanding that companies demonstrate corporate water management and promote the responsible use of water resources.

When it comes to climate change, 25% more natural resources are currently being used than the Earth can yield at a sustainable rate. We need to create resilient and sustainable water supply for people and industries everywhere. The water sector has a double challenge in the face of climate change. On the one hand, the need to be more efficient by reducing energy consumption and prioritising the use of clean energies. On the other, encouraging a more efficient use of water both in the agricultural and urban sectors through public awareness campaigns or improved leakage management techniques.

The water industry’s role in biodiversity and livelihood

Water is required to support biodiversity. Without sufficient and good quality water, stresses on species greatly increases biodiversity losses. In turn, biodiversity is critical to the maintenance of both the quality and quantity of water supplies, and plays a vital — but often under-acknowledged — role in the water cycle. Ecosystems and their biodiversity should not be viewed as consumers of water, but as essential elements of natural infrastructure within water management. Without ecosystems, and the complex biological relationships and processes that they support, the quantity and quality of global water resources will become severely compromised. The current paradigm, in which water and biodiversity are managed separately, is obsolete.

Managing this scarce resource

Today, 1.4 billion people worldwide are without access to basic sanitation. Worldwide, 240 million people are without access to an improved water source. Through its Access to Energy program, Schneider Electric invests in water solutions that enable universal access by deploying adapted offers for emerging countries. As an example, the company installed a solution for two wells converting energy from fossil fuel (diesel) which supplies sufficient water for irrigation at the Water Desalination Plant in El-Heiz village, Egypt. The project’s main objective was to provide the inhabitants of El-Heiz community with two solar-powered wells to cultivate around 140 Feddans. This will help reduce the company’s carbon footprint (CO2 emission) by almost 38 tons annually.

With over 40,000 installations worldwide, Schneider Electric software can help water companies to intelligently manage water supply and sanitation operations in cities like London, Sydney, Shanghai, Las Vegas or Barcelona, to name a few. There are examples like:

  • WaterForce, a New Zealand-based leader in sustainable water solutions, wanted to address the growing demand for water with a sophisticated, but easy-to-use, cloud-based water management solution that leveraged the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to monitor and control geographically isolated assets. Deployment of SCADAfarm, an integrated automation and information management platform built on EcoStruxure and Microsoft Azure technologies, has led to increased visibility of irrigation system performance and status — for both farmers and WaterForce. With more control and visibility into operations, farmers reported up to 50% energy savings in the first season. Remote monitoring means farmers save significant time driving to inspect assets. Additionally, as a solution builder (OEM), WaterForce can now offer additional value-add services such as fault diagnosis and performance benchmarking.
  • Shoalhaven Water is a large regional utility on the New South Wales South Coast covering an area of approximately 5000 km2. Tied to the Shoalhaven City Council, the utility is responsible for the delivery of potable water with the majority from four large water treatment plants in both the north and the south, as well as numerous water reservoirs and dams, water pumping stations, valves and dosing systems. Overall, they treat and distribute approximately 45 million litres of potable water each day. By utilising Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure architecture, Shoalhaven Water mapped out a clear plan to bring quick delivery of Schneider Electric telemetry hardware and SCADA software enhancements to remote sites. This deployment has resulted in improved proactive maintenance capabilities through streamlined reporting and overall reduction in maintenance fees.

Aligned with the United Nations (UN)

Schneider Electric is proud to contribute to the achievement of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially (SDG 6) for clean water and sanitation.

Access to water and sanitation are basic human rights and are critical sustainable development challenges. These challenges will only worsen and the impacts on people will only increase as competing demands for clean fresh water (agriculture, households, energy generation, industrial use, ecosystems) are exacerbated by the effects of climate change putting more pressure on water quality and availability.

Concretely, the company addresses this challenge by prioritising water efficiency across operations by installing best practice technologies for water conservation. Schneider Electric is helping its customers drive their efficiencies across the entire water cycle, better manage their assets, as well as reducing their capital and operational costs.

Clean drinking water will be more scarce and limited in the coming years. We must balance all of society’s water needs while ensuring the poorest people don’t get left behind. It is absolutely critical that we raise awareness to achieve both conservation and efficient consumption of our most precious resource now, before it is too late.

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