The failure to meet basic needs for safe water and sanitation worldwide is one of the great tragedies of our age, with billions of people paying the price in illness and poverty. The international community and countless local activists are currently engaged in a renewed drive to end the global water crisis. As corporate executives, investors and politicians from around the world descend on New York City this week to debate the future of the environment, however, we must confront the fact that the water crisis is on a collision course with another great tragedy: the chaos that our economic system has unleashed on the Earth’s climate.
In the run-up to the UN Climate Action Summit now underway in New York, our organizations, Water.org and the Pacific Institute, have been examining the connections between climate change and Water.org and WaterEquity’s mission: to empower people to invest in providing access to clean water and sanitation. Our research reinforces the conclusion that water action must be part of climate action, or else it will be part of the problem. Universal water and sanitation, as a promise, is inextricably tied to the climate future that our investments are building. Innovative investment tools like climate finance facilities, microfinance, bonds and insurance can get us closer to meeting that promise.
Meeting water and sanitation needs has traditionally required substantial energy, resulting in the emission of greenhouse gases. The water sector accounts for 4% of national electricity use in the United States, more than 9% in India and China. A recent Pacific Institute assessment using International Energy Agency data predicts that meeting the United Nations sustainable development goal of water and sanitation for everyone will double the water sector’s energy needs between 2014 and 2030. That’s largely due to an increase in energy-intensive seawater desalination, large-scale water-transfer projects and collection and treatment of wastewater.
The dream of universal safe water, though, does not need to come at the expense of the climate. We can meet both water and climate needs with smart investments.
A crucial part of this is to look for anywhere water is lost or wasted. Improvements in water efficiency can simultaneously reduce pressure on […]