Building our economy must revolve around water
Gone are the days when water was perceived as an infinite resource that can be found anywhere.
With growing populations and industries, water has become a vital resource in need of our utmost efforts in protection and conservation.
According to The Water Project’s statistics, Sub Saharan Africa is among the regions with the greatest drinking water spending needs globally but 319 million people are without access to reliable drinking water.
In Kenya, the Water.org states that an approximate ‘32 per cent of Kenyans rely on unimproved water sources, such as ponds, shallow wells and rivers, while 48 per cent of Kenyans lack access to basic sanitation solutions’.
This means that it is about time we think of a proactive approach on water conservation that combines technology and policy to find solution and mitigate risk.
This is geared towards managing water scarcity. It means involving all levels of the community in executing strategies and reforms aimed at changing our lifestyle and perception towards water conservation.
When the campaign on climate change became a universally acknowledged issue, many people and businesses started to look at the energy conservation efforts that they, in their various capacities, can engage in.
For many industries, energy audits were applied as the guaranteed tool for energy conservation that would impact not only the bottom line – in terms of reducing company expenditure – but also the environment within which they operated in.
Similarly, water audits are being applied globally by industries to monitor and track a company’s water use and devise methods to save or reuse it.
A company carrying out water audit, tracks its water usage from the inlets all the way to where it is disposed of.
This way, a company is able to estimate how much water it is using versus how much it actually needs.
In many ways, the extent of water ‘losses’ revealed through this tracking has led to investments in water treatment facilities – which provide recycled water for both the company and the surrounding environment. These audits highlight potential areas of saving.
A water audit might also be useful in pointing to a change of equipment – perhaps from machinery that demands excessive water use – to alternatives that will save water and costs.
Additionally, it could even drive culture change in organisations, where every member of staff is made aware of their personal contribution towards water conservation for the environment.
These practical strategies would be extended to their use of water at home and have a ripple effect on the community.
In short, water audits will point at the glaring gaps and long-standing assumptions in water use that lead to wastage, and force us to review how we utilise this precious resource.
This year, industry is gearing towards championing for a green economy.
In many conversations buzzwords have been mainly on energy conservation, and whilst this is good, it is critical to look at what we can do to address the problems of water access in the communities.
A green economy is broad-based and inclusive; this means working towards increasing access to clean water and sanitation. It is no secret that lack of water goes hand in hand with poverty.
Hence the development of a green economy cannot happen in a vacuum.
Industry needs to play its part in water conservation as a development partner for both government and the community, to avert the much speculated water crisis in the near future.
It is vital for companies to put in much effort in devising water efficiency plans, through which they will execute water management strategies towards reducing their carbon footprint and entrenching their sustainability. — The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Network Kenya Board Chair. —[email protected]