According to the World Health Organization, 844 million people worldwide lack a basic drinking-clean water service and at least two billion people use a drinking water source that is contaminated with faeces. What’s more, half of the world’s population is expected to life in water-stressed areas by 2025. Cities like Mexico City, São Paulo, Lima, Singapore, Sana’a, and Cairo are already feeling the impact of the world’s looming water crises.
With these challenges come opportunities for optimization and technological innovation – not to mention the need to re-assess how we manage our most valuable resource as a planet. According to a report released by the CDP on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, there are $9.5 billion worth of projects addressing water challenges in the world today.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to access to clean water is that 96 percent of the planet’s 332.5 million cubic miles (1,386 cubic kilometers) of water is saline. Of the remaining four percent, 68% is locked in ice and glaciers, and 30 percent is in the ground, meaning that rivers account for less than 2 percent of the world’s freshwater. Desalination, a popular method of extracting the salt from seawater, serves 300 million people in 150 countries – although it doesn’t come cheap . Desalination is especially popular in the water-stressed Middle East, with Saudi Arabia projected to spend SR300bn ($80bn) on desalination projects in the Kingdom over the next two decades.
Technology can offer many solutions for water-stressed regions – although by no means is it a panacea. With 70% of the world’s freshwater being used for irrigation, water usage can be optimized through precision technologies, with some farmers and water experts arguing that they can reduce water use by 10-25 percent.
In cities, Direct Potable Reuse – or cleaning wastewater from sewage systems to make it potable – and the integration of circular water systems are increasingly popular methods of improving access to clean water. Another way of conserving water: simply maintaining our existing infrastructure for it – a process that would require an investment of $91 billion in the U.S. alone.
This infograph by Ohio University examines how today’s technology is providing solutions for a future of clean water.