Global freshwater availability is under permanent stress. Of all water available on our planet only 2,5 % is potable fresh water of which most is present in ice caps. A mere 0,3% is directly available for consumption. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has calculated that due to increasing population the global water consumption will rise dramatically over the coming years, leading to an increasing stress on available freshwater sources, increased local drought risks and reducing the availability of potable water for consumption.
The European Environment Agency states that about 44 % of total water abstraction in Europe is used for agriculture, 40 % for industry and energy production (cooling in power plants), and 15 % for public water supply. The main water consumption sectors are irrigation, urban, and manufacturing industry. From the industrial water consumption approximately half is used as cooling water for energy production while the other half is predominantly used for process and manufacturing industries in chemicals, food and feed, paper and pulp, oil and gas, textile, metals, minerals and mining sectors.
It is very clear that both European Environment Agency (EEA) and the UNEP call for action to increase the efficiency in water use. Quoting the UNEP 5 report;
‘Increasing water-use efficiency in all sectors is vital to ensure sustainable water resources for all uses’
In current industrial practice water is mostly seen as a cheap consumable rather than a valuable resource. In industry a culture change is needed to change the mind-set and create a change towards the appreciation of water as a scarce good and a corresponding culture of water conservation contrary to the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) that states ‘Water is not a commercial product like any other but, rather, a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such”;
This change can only be realized by inspiring examples that are adopted by important stakeholders who influence and inspire the value chain in which they operate.