Re-plumbing the water system

Keith Hayward

With the COP25 meeting in Madrid done, the world needs as much as ever action on how to deliver real progress on climate change. We need much more on mitigation, for sure. And the reality of the prospects for progress are such that we need much more on adaptation too.

This is the latest signal of a need to re-plumb the water system – to make new connections, both mental and physical.

We can see this on issues right at the heart of our sector, such as the loss of water from supply networks. This is a waste in itself. It could be used for people currently unserved – as part of progress on the SDGs to expand access. Controlling loss equates to control over power use – contributing to progress on climate change mitigation. And it builds a more robust system, better able to avoid a ‘day zero’ scenario and contribute to resilience, a core need in climate change adaptation.

At the IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition, Rosie Wheen of WaterAid Australia highlighted the power of stories (p17). The Congress also saw the celebration of the first World Water Loss Day – in essence, an example of storytelling. Add in the connections with the SDGs, and climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the story becomes even more compelling.

This is the latest signal of a need to re-plumb the water system – to make new connections, both mental and physical

These connections in a re-plumbed system have real significance. This edition’s feature on the European Investment Bank (p33), under the theme of finance, shows some of the evolving ways of connecting water to investor appetites. Interest is building around climate, sustainable development, and the circular economy.

Appreciation of water connections continues to evolve too, even in an area as familiar as water supply. For example, Australian researchers (p57) have recently catalogued an iceberg of 75 different benefits of digital metering.

The opportunities for re-plumbing are wide, replacing some connections, adding new ones. Our article on p37 looks at the growing appreciation of the potential for nature-based solutions. This represents a bridge with agriculture on a number of aspects. The need and potential to make use of that bridge on water quality issues and circular economy opportunities, for example, is highlighted by the Analysis article opposite on the call for global action on nitrogen. The EIB article points to investment interest in nature-based solutions too.

There is no one route to this re-plumbed destination, or even a single destination. A further article in this issue (p45) does, though, show the type of initiative needed to embed these new connections, providing insights into Chile’s collaborative approach to building a new multi-sectoral agenda.

Keith Hayward, Editor