Business and the challenge with water

Water. The Basque Region is noted for its abundance rather than its scarcity, and therefore its availability here is not an issue. Unfortunately, this is not the case elsewhere throughout the world, where it is foreseen that half the world’s population will suffer water shortages by 2030.

This is a multiple faceted problem, and one which will lead to billions of people around the world being deprived of the most basic resource for life. In coming decades, the efforts and resources devoted to mitigating this deficit, and the activities connected with the management of the Water Cycle, will produce a proverbial deluge of policies, campaigns, investment initiatives, and naturally, business opportunities. Let’s take a look at some of the most recent of these initiatives:

Reusing water

Given its traditional importance in cost structures, companies have hitherto focused solely on reducing energy consumption. Today, however, we turn our attention to water. Those searching for efficiency in industrial processes have now placed water, and how we use it, under their scrutiny. Large consumers (industry, large buildings and public facilities, etc.) are implementing plans to reutilise over 90% of the water used in their industrial processes and activities. This is a path which will slowly, but surely, lead us to the ‘factory of the future’: more efficient, smarter and cleaner, with high levels of ‘industrial symbiosis’, that is, reusing excess energy, water, waste, etc. within the same plant or industrial complex.

New technologies = clean water

Consider the role played by biotechnology, nanotechnology or renewable energies, which all consume less water as compared to processes in traditional sectors such as the metallurgical, or the petrochemical industries. These new technologies can pave the way for new products and clean technologies which improve the efficiency of how water is used in industry. A good example from close to home is the inorganic filter by the Basque firm Likuid Nanotek which enables high precision filtering of the water utilised in industrial processes, averting undesired environmental impacts.

New, adapted products

Although it might initially sound ethically inadmissible, the range of business opportunities presented by four billion people without clean water as potential clients, is simply colossal. There are other Basque companies, who have for years helped resolve some of humanity’s bigger problems with this type of approach. Take for example the case of Guascor, who brought electrical power to over 200 villages in remote areas of the Brazilian Amazon.

Similarly, new business opportunities could open up for those at the Base of the Pyramid worldwide who have no access to clean drinking water. The reasons for water scarcity are numerous and which differ from case to case (ie. infrastructure, logistics, quality, pollution, etc.). However, in combination they turn into a universe of business opportunities, one which demands new products and solutions suited to each individual situation, as well as new approaches which are inclusive of the people involved.

Aquatic footprint

Finally, being acutely aware of the problem besieging great part of the planet, consumers will be demanding that companies use water responsibly. They will acquire new technologies for home use which will allow them to manage, measure, control and re-use water themselves. Moreover, consumers will be able to request information regarding the aquatic footprint of the products purchased, and be informed as to how much water was consumed in the manufacture of a product.

Thus, with all the foregoing, we can conclude that dramatic changes regarding water will bring with them a plethora of implications to future political, legislative, and economic arenas, generating endless opportunities of developing new businesses. Are we ready?


*Published in Estrategia Empresarial 1-15 January, 2014

Oscar Valdivielso

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