World Environment Day: Grundfos and Global Water Scarcity

Duncan Leathley, Area Sales Director of the Water Utilities Division at Grundfos
For World Environment Day, Grundfos' Duncan Leathley highlights the critical importance of water conservation & innovative solutions to water scarcity

World Environment Day, the United Nations' main event for promoting global awareness and environmental action, is observed annually on 5 June. The 2024 theme focuses on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience.

Water, essential for life and energy, faces increasing scarcity worldwide, threatening the energy transition. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that in 2021, the global energy system used around 370 billion m³ of freshwater, about 10% of global freshwater withdrawals.

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Duncan Leathley, Area Sales Director of the Water Utilities Division at Grundfos, the world’s largest advanced pump solutions company, advocates for water efficiency and conservation.

In this World Environment Day Q&A, he discusses the urgent issue of water scarcity and the need for action to protect our planet.

What is the significance of World Environment Day to you?

World Environment Day

World Environment Day brings attention to major environmental issues around the globe.

This year's theme of ‘drought resilience’ is significant as it brings an opportunity to reflect on the growing issues of water scarcity and wastewater management.

It provides an opportunity for individuals, communities and governments to reflect on these problems and take actions towards implementing more sustainable practices to make positive long-term changes.  

How can collaborative initiatives help address the challenges posed by water scarcity and drought resilience, particularly in the context of the growing hydrological volatility?

Collaborative initiatives allow for the pooling of resources, knowledge and expertise from various sectors — government, private sector, non-profit organisations and academia.

The effects of water scarcity: Credit: WWF

Grundfos and our Foundation, for instance, are partners of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, lending our expertise to the efforts of cities worldwide to combat their water security challenges. These collective efforts lead to more comprehensive and effective solutions that one entity alone may not be able to achieve.

Whether it be the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects, such as building new reservoirs or upgrading existing water management systems, or policymaking and regulation, it is through collective efforts that significant change can be made.

In the face of increasing hydrological volatility due to climate change, these collaborative initiatives become even more crucial. Ultimately, they enable quick adaptation and responses to changing conditions, ensuring greater water security for all.

In what ways can the world enhance its water storage and processing infrastructure to ensure sustainable utilisation of clean water, thus mitigating the impact of future droughts and water shortages?

Picote Dam, which emphasises the power of hydroelectric energy and that of running water. Credit: National Geographic

There are several ways the world can enhance its water storage and processing infrastructure to tackle these issues. For example, constructing additional reservoirs increases water storage capacity and can help meet demand during periods of drought.

It has been 30 years since the UK built new reservoirs, despite an estimated 30 additional reservoirs being needed to manage the current level of demand according to the National Infrastructure Commission.

Upgrading existing infrastructure is also crucial as many current water systems are outdated and inefficient. Grundfos’ Demand Driven Distribution (DDD) is an effort to address these inefficiencies. By modulating supply according to demand, DDD can help reduce water wastage and thereby conserve existing resources.

Energy production and water availability go hand-in-hand

Encouraging water recycling is also important, especially as cities around the world become more populated. The city of Shenyang in China provides a blueprint of how wastewater can be treated and reused.

Overflowing landfills and collections of contaminated water are treated at the WELLE treatment facility and redistributed or reused in the local province. Processes such as this helps conserve freshwater resources and reduces the strain on water supply during periods of scarcity.

By implementing these strategies, we can promote sustainable water use and build resilience against future droughts and water shortages.

With the advent of data-driven smart technology in water management globally, how can innovative solutions be leveraged to modernise existing water systems and processes, fostering greater efficiency and resilience?

Real-time monitoring through smart sensors and devices can allow for immediate detection and swift response to issues such as leaks or contamination, preventing wastage.

From predictive analytic tools such as Metasphere’s ART sewer technology to Grundfos’ DDD technology, data-driven solutions that forecast future water demand can get ahead of potential system failures and mitigate environmental disasters.

Intelligent and technologically innovative water distribution processes allow for the proactive planning and allocation of resources. This leads to improved energy efficiency and reduced water loss.

Take Finland’s oldest city, Turku, which strives to be one of the world's first carbon neutral cities by 2029. In the last two years, the city has increased its water efficiency and had zero incidents of sewage clogging thanks to a sewage treatment plant that uses Grundfos’ energy efficient wastewater pumps. There is an opportunity for the UK to take note and consider the potential that lies in implementing innovative and smart solutions such as this.

By leveraging these innovative solutions, water systems can become more efficient, resilient, and adaptable to changing conditions. This will be critical in helping mitigate and deal with the challenges of climate change.

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