Amidst accelerating climate change, water scarcity continues to impact communities and economies worldwide, with significant implications for infrastructure development and policy-making in both emerging and developed nations.
By 2025, it is projected that two-thirds of the globe’s population will face water shortages, and some reports indicate that 14 of the world’s 20 megacities are already experiencing water scarcity or drought conditions.
The below are five ways water scarcity is likely to impact the future of infrastructure development:
Access to low-cost water resources will become a competitive advantage for countries seeking foreign funds, whether for infrastructure development or industrial investment. Conversely, countries that have neglected investing in adequate water supply will face industries moving away to less expensive regions
2. Imperative for innovation, including InfraTech
Mitigating water scarcity increases opportunities for innovation and the use of InfraTech to meet the demand for effective, cost-efficient and rapid solutions. The GI Hub’s 2020 InfraChallenge winner Mrüna is an excellent example, tackling the economic and social challenges of wastewater treatment with its BiomWeb system, which uses IoT to treat wastewater onsite, negating the need to transport waste and recycled water.
3. Increase in water-related projects
As water supplies grow scarce, governments will have to invest heavily to both upgrade existing systems and build new solutions. This could result in a global surge in projects such as:
- large-scale water storage and recycling systems
- flood control systems with an emphasis on water retention
- nation-wide farming irrigation improvements
- sewage system upgrades
- desalination plants.
4. Sustainable urban design
Moving forward, urban centres will have to incorporate water-sensitive design to better integrate and manage the water cycle. Measures will include the retention and recycling of stormwater and groundwater, increasing the capacity of wastewater treatment, and upgrading the distribution network of existing water pipes. On a larger scale, cities will have to repurpose paved areas into green spaces to better absorb and retain water.
5. Pivotal shift in priorities
In a water-scarce future, water-related infrastructure development may take precedence over all other types. Water is a fundamental factor in every construction project, and higher water costs drive up total project costs.
Already, more than two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress. Water-smart infrastructure development is a deserving priority for government and private industry concerned with a sustainable and inclusive infrastructure future.