World faces growing challenge of water security

World faces growing challenge of water security

Water issues are no longer limited to developing countries. They are evolving as global challenges.

A recent historic drought in California, US, shows that every country can be vulnerable to a variety of water challenges.

Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered residents and businesses to cut their water usage by 25 per cent for the first time in the state's history to cope with severe water shortage, affected by the fourth straight year of drought.

The lack of clean fresh water is one of the most serious water problems in many countries.

Taiwan's farmers are concerned about the impact of the prolonged drought on their spring harvest.

Residents in Korea's northern Gyeonggi Province are short of drinking water, caused by a prolonged drought since last winter.

International relations experts say that behind the Iraq and Syrian conflicts is control over the limited water resources.

More regions are expected to confront the water shortage issue in the near future. According to the World Water Development Report, released last month, the planet faces a 40 per cent shortfall in water supply in 15 years.

The report attributes causes of a surge in water consumption to accelerating urbanization, population growth and increasing demand for water for food production, energy and industry.

"Climate change, which causes extreme weather events like severe drought, also aggravates the imbalance between water supply and demand," said Jang Suk-hwan, a professor of civil engineering at Daejin University.

With water demand far exceeding supply, water security has become a more complicated issue as it is linked to food and energy sectors, the two most dependent sectors on water consumption.

"Countries have to consider how to manage water for sustainable growth and future prosperity," Jang said.

On the flip side of the coin, a worsening imbalance in water supply and demand is creating a variety of business opportunities.

With the water market being one of the world's fastest growing industries, some experts foresee it hitting $1 trillion as early as 2020. Finnish chemicals firm Kemira predicts Asia, whose water demand has surged amid continued economic and population growth, will lead the growth of the water market.

Riding on the high growth potential, global water giants like Veolia and Suez environment in Europe are stepping up their global penetration.

"In order to meet the needs and anticipate hydric stress situation, the solutions rely on control of ever increasingly advanced technologies and expertise such as desalinating seawater, regenerating water after use or developing the means for less water intensive agriculture," Thierry Mallet, executive vice president of Suez environment, said in an email interview. He is in charge of the innovation and business performance division at Suez, a leading France-based water business giant.

"(Like other industries), innovation is key for the success of our water businesses," he stressed.

A growing number of Korean conglomerates like Doosan, SK and LG, are also capitalizing on the "blue gold" market in their search for a new growth engine.

The seventh World Water Forum, the world's largest water-related event, will kick off on Sunday in Daegu, offering an opportunity for the public to learn about water-related issues and their solutions.

"Water is fragile. We must protect it, conserve it and develop alternative resources," the Suez executive said.

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