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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Water icon…as user demands are increasing and diversifying

As water gains recognition as a strategic natural resource and becomes scarcer in certain areas, demand for clean water will intensify. Global population is projected to grow by two to three billion by 2050; clean drinking water will therefore be in greater demand as will water for additional food production, energy generation and other water intensive production systems. Competing requirements pose a risk to businesses which have seen decreases in water allotments, more stringent regulations and higher costs of water. Changing socioeconomic conditions are also causing dietary shifts from predominantly starch-based foods to meat and dairy and is expected to lead to a 70 per cent global increase in water demand by 2050. 

… as water supply infrastructure is becoming inadequate and outdated

Some water distribution systems are archaic and are no longer adequate for service. Underinvestment in infrastructure further exacerbates water challenges and raises safety and quality concerns. Damage to critical points in water systems can cause water shortages and degrade water quality thus resulting in decreased efficiency, increased operational costs and reputational detriment. 

…as climate change impacts water sources

The pressure on water supplies is further aggravated by the threat of global climate change as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Increases in temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns (droughts and floods) and rising sea levels may impact the amount of available clean, fresh water. In addition, natural disasters and floods can overwhelm water delivery and sewage services as well as mobilise pathogens, toxins, and other pollutants thereby contaminating drinking water supplies and leaving people without water services. All of these impacts amplify the competing demands for clean water and subsequently endanger operational productivity and reputation.