A shift to a circular economy could help save more than 400 billion m3 of water every year.
A recent report by a Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation, concludes that while a circular economy may not succeed at eradicating water shortages around the world, it can reduce those shortages by focusing on water-use reduction, as well as water storage, wastewater treatment, and reclamation.
What is a circular economy? In contrast, a traditional, linear economy is one where an asset is produced, used, and then disposed of. In a circular economy, a resource is kept in circulation as long as possible through recovery and reuse, extracting maximum value.
Researchers examined six regions of the world: California, Ghana, Bangladesh, Northern India, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates. These areas were selected because they all are prone to water shortages due to either meteorological or geographical conditions.
Infrastructure and Technology Opportunities
When it comes to transforming linear water systems into circular ones, the first step is to improve the technology used in the current systems. That includes installing water-saving irrigation systems in agricultural areas, and wastewater treatment and reclamation plants in highly populated areas.
For example, in Northern India and Bangladesh, whose economies heavily rely on water- demanding agricultural and textile industries, the easiest infrastructure changes to achieve a circular water system are bringing water to the area and building facilities to treat wastewater for reuse.
One particular technology that can bring water reuse to remote locations is membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) using passive aeration, MABR slashes the energy needed for aeration by 90%. MABR can treat sewage and other wastewater to the point that it can be used for crop irrigation, closing the circle.
The Need for Behavioral Changes
In areas where water infrastructure and water irrigation systems are already advanced, the impact of technology won’t be as effective. Instead, a shift toward a circular economy will require an emphasis on behavioral changes to cope with water shortages. That includes reducing water demand and water pollution, improving the retention of water, and reclaiming or reusing water.
As more and more areas of the world are affected by climate change, including global warming, droughts, and sometimes overwhelming floods, adopting circular water measures will help relieve not only water stress but also the potential for financial losses.
While the implementation of circular water systems faces many obstacles, such as infrastructure costs and skilled labor training, the benefits are plentiful when it comes to improving the livelihood of local populations, businesses, and the environment.
Photo Credit- Aman Bhargawa via Unsplash