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No.93 - There is no water crisis

there is a water mis-management crisis...

The most important take-away of the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) for me was that

we need to re-phrase our definition of a 'water crisis' into it's a 'water management crisis'. It's all about a dis-balance and lack of operational excellence. We are mostly focusing on finding and producing more (drinking) water, but the real solution is to solve the water mis-management… At the moment still too much food is wasted (and the water related to that), water is leaking away in most cities (non-revenue water), and industrial waste water isn't kept in the water cycle (re-use).

Actually it's a ‘crime' to waste the scarce resource of water, and not fully utilise it.

Singapore has taken an impressive route in becoming a Global 'Hydrohub' and to grow their Singapore International Water Week (SIWW). Two weeks ago (10-14 July, 2016), I actively participated in the first 'City Solutions' Singapore (CSS): an integrated expo showcasing 'Water' and 'Urban solutions'. BIG compliments to their first step to integrate the World City Summit and Clean Enviro Summit with SIWW. I admire Singapore's ambition and I am looking forward to the next edition in July 2018 (8-12 July) - and to celebrate once more my birthday during the summit ;-)

Most of the conversations were very centred around sustainable liveable and resilient cities - of which Singapore is of course a wonderful example. I tried to focus mainly on the Water (Leaders) Sessions of the Singapore International Water Week: 'Its about the interplay as all themes are interconnected' or as I was quoted in the Business Straits Times "You can't see #water as an isolated theme”.

I would like to share my experiences of the SIWW into the following eight take-aways:

FIRST

We need to re-phrase our definition of a 'water crisis' into it's a 'water management crisis'. It's all about a dis-balance and lack of operational excellence. We are mostly focusing on finding and producing more (drinking) water, but the real solution is to solve the water mis-management… At the moment still too much food is wasted (and the water related to that), water is leaking away in most cities (non-revenue water), and industrial waste water isn't kept in the water cycle (re-use).

Actually it's a ‘crime' to waste the scarce resource of water, and not fully utilise it.

TWO

Focus all our efforts and work together on the BIGGEST water consumer(s): AGRICULTURE (and Industries) and start the dialogue about the real price (value) of water related to water-consumption. So far the pricing or value of water doesn't seem to change - so water has only become cheaper over the recent number of years!

THREE

The eco-system of the water sector shouldn't be underestimated it's slow, highly regulated and risk averse. Although the World Economic Forum identified water as the number one global risk - there is still no real sense of urgency in the daily operations or governance structures. It's still a perception problem - we can't properly explain the business model and the scarcity-related risk to it. The current technology revolution will make it possible to measure and share (data) openly. There is no time to waste.

FOUR

Its a very important - and a non-regret - to focus on Water Awareness and Engagement via campaigns for the general public. Civil Society should be empowered to share (and address) water mis-management activities by connecting technology solution providers with problem owners (and explore their shared business case).

FIVE

It's not about the best technology or more financing; the water sector should become better in sharing (open) data, knowledge, and lessons learned to be able to scale it's effective blueprints (operational and business models). At the moment over 50.000 public and private utilities are all doing their own thing.

SIX

It's a people thing - we should focus on building better (unique) shared value partnerships that accelerate by working together. It's about building a successful team - its about combinatorial innovation #AsiaP3Hub. We shouldn’t be afraid of Water and Innovation - lets embrace it together: #Powerofcollaboration.

SEVEN

There isn’t a lot of diversity in the water sector - so there is a strong appeal on women and younger generations to step into the water sector. At the moment you need 10+ years of engineering experience to get respect and close the deal. We need to improve our narrative about the WHY its so important, interesting and appealing to work in the watersector as there is a big need of new thinking and collaborations.

EIGHT

There is a big need for more inspiring thought leaders in the water sector. People that are a magnet and attract different like-minded people to work together on global water challenges. Our approach isn’t inclusive - too many stakeholders aren't included in the conversations. As mentioned the solutions for the water crisis aren’t purely technological or financial… Its about the being part of the conversation. We don't need SuperHeroes - we just need heroes - and we can all be heroes!

TO CONCLUDE

  • Let's work together in - and outside - the watersector, and become a team and inspire, coach and challenge each others responsibilities / leadership. We are in this together and lets embrace change.
  • One of the key-note speakers said we’re heading for a 'perfect storm' - and I believe the only way to weather (survive) the more irregular and severe storms is to get prepared (understand and have access to the same information), learn iterative (its a process - let's start and learn), collaborate openly (work together) and connect the dots (don’t re-invent the wheel).  
  • People are the biggest game-changers. If we are able to make optimal use of our personal and technology networks I believe we are able to solve the water mismanagement problem. Technology (platforms) and the way we working together (online) will be the biggest game-changer.

For more detailed notes - please find a draft summary (living document) and photos of each day: 'Frodo's Crazy Notes'.

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