Guest Column | August 22, 2023

Re-Thinking The Global Challenge Of Water Scarcity

By Rob Lewis

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During World Water Week, participants from every corner of the world are meeting to discuss solutions to the planet’s greatest water challenges, such as poverty, the climate crisis, and biodiversity loss. This year’s focus is on innovation at a time of unprecedented challenges. 

The theme Seeds of Change: Innovative Solutions for a Water-Wise World invites us to rethink how we manage water. Which ideas, innovations, and governance systems will we need in a more unstable and water-scarce world.

Water is one of the most important resources on our planet — almost everything depends on it. Yet it is estimated that global water shortages could displace around 700 million people by 2030. As we face the unrelenting impacts of climate change and rapid population growth, water scarcity is a pressing issue that demands our immediate attention.

The Growing Need For Water Reuse

With traditional water sources under pressure, we need to think differently about the way we use water to reduce our dependency on freshwater. Reusing water, also known as recycling water or reclamation, recovers wastewater and cleans it up. It’s then used for industrial operations, environmental restoration, agriculture and irrigation, potable water supply, groundwater replenishment, and other beneficial applications.

Recycling wastewater is a method that has been successfully adopted in Southern European countries, where routine drought has created unprecedented challenges for the farming community. It is therefore routinely used for crop irrigation, where the reused water needs to meet high-quality standards.

Several states in the U.S. are following suit. California has the largest economy in the country and faces substantial domestic and industrial water demand. It is home to one of the planet's most fertile agricultural regions; however, an increasing lack of soil moisture is a pressing issue. In response, water reuse initiatives, initiated in the 1970s, have grown significantly and are now being rolled out across the country, supported by federal and state legislation.

The Power Of Innovation

In the U.S., the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Acts are in place to ensure that recycled water meets certain standards. A high percentage of contaminants must be removed from this water before it’s sent into the environment or used as community drinking water. 

The use of new technology is essential in meeting these ambitions and two Halma companies are playing a critical role in sustainable water management.

Sensorex’s advanced sensors monitor and control water quality in real time, ensuring that treated water meets necessary safety standards and regulations. By continuously assessing water conditions, its technology optimizes treatment processes, enabling efficient and safe recycling of water for diverse purposes.

For example, water’s pH levels, a measure of acidity and alkalinity, must meet certain criteria before and after treatment. Sensorex’s technology is used to measure pH levels before water can be treated with chemicals or via flocculation, removing organic and inorganic particles that float in the water.    

Customers across agriculture, papermaking, industrial laundries, and car washes are using use Sensorex sensors for their water reuse projects.

Nuvonic's technology purifies and revitalizes wastewater by using UV-C, a high-powered form of ultraviolet (UV) light, for advanced filtration and treatment. By removing contaminants and impurities without using chemicals, it transforms used water into a high-quality resource suitable for various needs.

California’s water utilities are finding creative ways to collect and recycle water from sinks, baths, washing machines, and kitchen appliances. Nuvonic’s UV technology treats wastewater by eliminating harmful contaminants without chemicals. Once treated, the recycled water is repurposed into ‘non-potable’ used to flush toilets and wash clothes. This saves clean water and reduces discharge into sewer systems.

Water reuse is important to protect the environment and make sure that water isn’t wasted at a high rate. When properly treated, most wastewater can be reused across an array of different applications and industries, which ensures that natural water supplies don’t need to be accessed as often. By using correct water treatment system, nearly all contaminants can be removed.

Rob Lewis is Divisional Chief Executive of Environmental & Analysis at Halma.