Used water is not an alternative supply to fresh water - it has always been the supply. Although water is renewable, there is only a fixed amount on earth. The same water that was here billions of years ago still exists today and must be used again and again over centuries to come.
This means there is no "new" water available, and much water must be treated in order to be re-used. When wastewater is treated, those discharges become a source of drinking water for downstream users. Most of the world's population drinks from rivers and streams that have received these discharges.
Water use has tripled globally since 1950 and demand is growing rapidly. It's estimated that 80% of used water is discharged back to the natural environment without any treatment, and this reduces the potential for the water it is polluting to be used effectively.
Increased water demand from people, agriculture, energy and industry endangers water supply security. However, reusing and recycling water enhances that security by saving large quantities of freshwater – while lowering costs, reducing environmental pollution and improving carbon footprints. Given the increasing demand on limited resources though, focusing solely on efficiency is not sufficient.
Our circular water management business solution aims to change the business mindset so that by 2020, water treatment, water efficiency, and recycling and re-use projects are cost-effective options and common practice worldwide.
We will explore ways to avoid wasting useful resources (water, energy, heat, nutrients, bioplastics) through more sustainable and circular business models. We will implement actions to increase awareness of the opportunities in cross-sector collaboration (e.g. industry-to-industry, municipal-to-industry, industry-to-agriculture) and their financial viability.
We aim to maximize water re-use by developing pilot projects and guidelines, showcasing best practices and sharing smart solutions.