In 2018, when Cape Town residents stared into the abyss of the taps running dry, there was talk of towing an iceberg from Antarctica to provide much-needed water. Thankfully, entrepreneurs are coming up with less outlandish ideas to help tackle the global crisis of shrinking supplies of freshwater, which deprives more than 2 billion people of access to safe drinking water and threatens our planet’s life-support system.
But entrepreneurs need both investment capital and supportive regulations to turn their ideas into viable solutions. The United Nation’s water conference in March in New York attempted to put the water crisis squarely on the map. Investors with $3 trillion in assets urged governments to develop policies to deliver water security through ambitious targets to incentivise private investment. “Water use for agricultural, industrial and energy generation activities must be transformed, to reduce demand and ensure that productive activities do not exacerbate water scarcity conditions,” they said.
Addressing water shortages also contributes to net-zero ambitions – piping and treating drinking water and sewage is energy-intensive. In the United States, for example, drinking and wastewater systems account for 2% of the country’s energy consumption. And in the race to keep average warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, every tonne of CO2 matters.