While you might not feel the effects when working from home and making the trip to fill up your cup with water from the fridge every hour, we are experiencing a worldwide decline in access to drinkable water. This may not be intuitive, because historically in most developed countries water has been considered more like air, endless and inexhaustible. Climate change paired with an increasing global population has directly caused significant disruption to our global water supply and not just in developing nations.
Today, 785 million people – roughly 1 in 9 – lack access to safe water. Less than 1 percent of the world’s freshwater is readily available for human consumption and demand is projected to increase by more than 40 percent this decade. This is a humanitarian and economic crisis – $260 billion is lost globally each year due to lack of basic water and sanitation. Access to drinkable water and sanitation at home, particularly for those in the global south, could give families back the time spent collecting and filtering water to pursue education and work opportunities. According to Water.org, every $1 invested in water and sanitation provides a $4 economic return.
What can we do to alleviate the escalating water crisis? There are a multitude of ways to preserve water, but we will focus on one today: water reuse. Water reuse can be a viable option. Competition for freshwater supplies in the U.S.’ populous arid regions among residential, commercial, and industrial users is increasing, causing communities to find alternative means of meeting the needs of residents and businesses. Direct water reuse, the process of treating wastewater in order to remove the contaminants so the water can be safely reused, has emerged as a sustainable alternative for those communities that are seeking to shrink the supply and demand gap.
Agricultural water reuse has been practiced for decades, but the concept of treating wastewater streams for immediate re-entry into the water cycle has gained attention, unlocking a “hidden source” of potable water supply for many areas. Filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet (UV) purification are all technologies that have applications in part of this growth. These initiatives are capturing the inherent advantage of UV treatment, which helps to purify water by replacing the use of chlorine.
With more companies purely dedicated to water preservation gaining traction, there is good news and there is also urgency. The CDP recently reported that a growing number of companies are starting to view water conservation measures as an opportunity for sustainable innovation, which is great. But, when it comes to solving the water security crisis, businesses cannot afford to wait much longer. CDP’s 2020 Global Water Report showed that companies reported financial impacts of water risks at $301 billion, equivalent to five times higher than the cost of addressing them, which is $55 billion.
With the economic and environmental technology return models mentioned above, we believe ESG-forward organizations and investors that support and invest in water preservation and reuse technologies are poised for financial and environmental growth. These companies stand to play a profitable and market-leading role moving forward. The Global Water Recycle and Reuse Market is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 10.7% by the end of 2025. Companies must start rethinking their overall strategies models to help build a water-secure world.
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