Water at heart of climate action

Water-at-heart-of-climate-action Floods hit the densely populated area of Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta on Feb. 25. High intensity rain and poor drainage systems have caused several locations in the capital to flood. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

​Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 23 March 2020

We are feeling the devastating impact of climate change daily on a global scale and this threat continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. The United Kingdom experienced its wettest February on record last month, with several regions experiencing rainfall more than twice the average.

At the same time, South Africa's multiyear drought continues to worsen, already having affected food security for more than 15 million people, and scientists have reported that winter has been by far the hottest recorded in Europe — 3.4 degrees Celsius hotter than the average from 1981 to 2010.

Closer to home, Indonesia has been grappling with both extremes of the water crisis. Jakarta has become the world's fastest sinking city — as fast as 10 centimeters per year — as the sea levels rise and severe flooding continue to plague the city. On the other extreme, the dry spells in Indonesia are getting longer.

Last year, at least 11 Indonesian provinces were affected by the worst drought the country faced since 2015, with several regencies driven to declare emergency.

While not every weather event is solely attributable to climate change, the climate crisis has certainly exacerbated the intensity and frequency of many of these natural occurrences.

What we have seen with climate change is that it manifests itself through changes in the water cycle. On one hand, we are seeing floods, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and intense storms, affecting development of entire nations and livelihood of millions. On the other, we have seen how it is also responsible for driving the world's water scarcity issue, depleting a resource critical not only for survival but for smooth functioning of nearly all industries and sectors.

The inextricable link between the climate and water crisis means that we cannot look at these two issues in silos.

Beyond working toward reducing our overall carbon footprint to mitigate climate change, we must adopt a holistic approach that considers how water and climate as two entities play into each other — be it building our resilience to water-related disasters or tackling water scarcity aggravated by climate change.

Climate mitigation strategies are driven by the global movement to reduce carbon emissions, with the aim of reducing the rate of climate change. According to a report by Indonesian government's Low Carbon Development Initiative (LCDI), less carbon-intensive and more energy efficient energy systems can reduce Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 43 percent by 2030.

A key area to drive this energy efficiency is in water itself. Water processes consume large amounts of energy, from supplying drinking water, to irrigation, to industrial processes such as wastewater and chemical treatment, to heating, cooling, and air-conditioning in buildings. In fact, pumps — which underpin water movement and treatment throughout these processes — contribute to as much as 10 percent of the global electricity consumption.

Technology has been a key enabler of energy efficiency, and with the advent of the digital era, we are now equipped with capabilities to achieve considerable efficiencies in water processes.

For instance, digital technology can enable pumps to be more intuitive and responsive to fluctuating demand, adjusting water flow through real-time monitoring. This in turn keeps energy use efficient and will go a long way in reducing our carbon footprint.

While none is less important than the other, a key focus at the moment is the efficient use of our scarce water resources, as rising temperatures threaten the availability of this vital resource.

To ensure we are using our water efficiently, it is critical that all stakeholders — from governments to businesses to communities — incorporate water stewardship in their activities. It is only through collective action that we can ensure sustainable management of water as a shared public resource.

While conscientiousness is key to water stewardship, there is often an intention-action gap arising from either lack of awareness or ability to manage water resources. We can address these issues by leveraging technological advancements.

For instance, smart technology can fill the information gap by allowing consumers to monitor their water usage in real-time, empowering them to save more and minimize their carbon footprint. On a wider scale, an example of the role of technology in driving water savings is the use of preemptive and predictive maintenance in water infrastructure, which helps to prevent water losses.

Countries and businesses today can leverage intelligent solutions to adjust the water flow, reducing excessive pressure and consequently wear and tear of the water pipes. This year's World Water Day reminds us of the interconnected nature of the climate and water crisis. While this presents a complex challenge, it also serves as an opportunity for us to address the two biggest threats we face today by adopting a holistic approach.

Written by Kim Jensen, group senior vice president and regional managing director of Grundfos Asia Pacific region.

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