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Did you know that around 3,170 gallons of water were used to make your smartphone? Every single device we use has a water footprint.

We interviewed Tom Freyberg, one of the water industry’s leading journalists, to talk about the water footprint, the problems we may face in the future due to shortages, and how we can solve them. Watch the interview to learn all about it.

Every single item that we consume has a water footprint. Therefore, this is a challenge that's not going to go away.

Interview Transcription


1. Education

I think there’s a collective responsibility from governments and schools, universities around the world to really educate people around water resources, around scarcity.
There is a climate emergency out there and with good-willing governments around the world can make changes very quickly: we saw that with the Covid-19 pandemic. we can shut borders, we can ground flights, we can put in policies almost within days. So, we just have to treat it as an emergency.


2. Collaboration

There is not one single company or government that can solve the water crisis; is a collection of multiple stakeholders between the public and the private sector. This involves innovation from the private sector, from technology startups, it involves the financial sector to make sure that investments, both philanthropic capital as well as commercial investments, are made and they flow into the sector to help the startups scale up the technologies.


3. Foresight to look ahead

In terms of smart water, it has quite a few different elements. I mean Digital Technology is a part of the Smart Water approach, but Smart Water Management goes beyond the tech and beyond the data.
In terms of flexibility, there’s a need to be some creative thinking, but particularly on utility water supply. There has been a resistance to change and a resistance to becoming too flexible because ultimately if you get something wrong, you are dealing with public health.


4. The circle of water

There’s an enormous opportunity to fully integrate a circular economy approach within the water sector. So instead of gathering the water resources, treating the water resources, distributing, collecting, and then discharging them into the environment, it’s actually looking at what’s embedded in the water.
It’s biogas or energy from wastewater that can be harnessed to power the operations? You know… Is there a fertilizer available that can be sent and traded with local farmers? So, basically is thinking within a much closer aspect into society, as opposed to looking to external suppliers to come in.

The realist in me believes that it is a challenge that will face future generations for hundreds of years because as you know population has increased, our need to consume goods has a very heavy water footprint.
Water will become more valued. I think it will become an issue that’s perhaps fought over even more with what we are hearing of water wars across multiple boards, I think that’s only going to escalate. And I also think innovations we’re seeing now will be multiplied and extrapolated to the different areas across the world. I feel like particularly on the digital side and the Smart Water side data is an incredibly powerful thing.


5. Water doesn’t respect boundaries

I think water is a vital element – as oil has been in the past, but not so much today – it’s a precious commodity, and particularly as climate change is driving water scarcity and there’s you know water resources are getting less and less. And without water there’s no life: there’s no economy; there’s no business; there’s no nothing.


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