SEATTLE — According to a 2007 paper by Oxford Professor David Grey and World Bank water security expert Claudia Sadoff, water security is “the reliable availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks.” Water insecurity represents a growing humanitarian crisis: an estimated 800 million people are without safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion lack proper sanitation.
Throughout history, the issue of water security has always been of great importance. It has the potential to spark conflict or, some theorize, broker peace. Countries most susceptible to water insecurity are those with low rainfall, rapid population growth in fresh water-scarce areas and inadequate sources of fresh water. There are not enough resources to sustain the current consumption and use of fresh water. Developed countries such as China and India with huge industrial sectors consume billions of cubic meters of water.
Entrepreneurs across the globe are developing technology to alleviate the pressure of water consumption. Technology is certainly not the only route to more reliable water security, but it is a part of the solution. Recent breakthroughs include solar-driven nanotechnology desalination methods that yield drinking water from salt water. Desalination has traditionally been expensive and difficult to implement because of its energy consumption. Solar-driven desalination may be a much-needed breakthrough.
South Korea is capitalizing on nanotechnology desalination. Egypt and Oman commissioned South Korea’s LG Chemical to supply the countries with water treatment filters. In Egypt, this development aims to supply desalinated drinking water to at least 1 million people every day.
Germany has developed and tested new technology and water security methods across different regions. Aqualonis GmbH, a Munich-based research team, developed and distributed scalable technology called CloudFisher, which can be used for both drinking water and agricultural purposes. The system harvests water from fog in dry mountainous and coastal regions. Morocco, Yemen and Chile already use this WHO-approved technology.
As water sources continue to be depleted, technology and water security will be increasingly linked. “Opportunities must be recognized to link defense, diplomacy and development efforts, particularly in the context of water management,” commented Roger-Mark De Souza, director of population, environmental security and development at the Wilson Center. An investment in water security is an investment in humanity.
– Sydney Nam