Water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, poses special risks for industry. Business leaders and scholars explored these risks and promising solutions at a recent Wharton conference on Industrial Water Management, co-sponsored by the school’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) and Suez. This report extends that discussion, focusing on the global challenge and some of the innovative ways that the business and financial communities are responding.
The following articles are included in the report, which can be downloaded — in PDF form — from this page:
Water Scarcity and Climate Change: Entwined Challenges to Industry
Only 2.5% of the earth’s water is fresh and most of that has been locked up in glaciers for millennia. Now those glaciers are melting into the sea at an alarming rate, as the average global temperatures continues to rise. The warming atmosphere is disrupting the normal water cycle, desiccating some areas that are already parched and flooding others with more precipitation than they can handle. Industry, too, is threaten by these changes, but there are signs that companies are rising to the challenge.
How Industry Is Addressing the Growing Water Crisis
Companies around the world are facing up to the planet’s dwindling supply of freshwater. The first step for many is to reduce the amount of water they need to run their plants and produce their products. For those that rely on agriculture, it’s important to maximize the amount of freshwater available in the environment while helping farmers minimize their water use. Meanwhile, aging infrastructure is forcing companies in water-stressed areas to focus increasingly on water reuse and desalination.
Financing the Future of Industrial Water
Where others see a looming water crisis the financial community sees opportunity. Investment is flowing into water utility stocks and into the water-related companies bundled together in exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Value investors are contributing to public-private partnerships that support major infrastructure projects, and venture capital and other early-stage investors are providing important seed money for innovative startups. What is currently in short supply are funds that can help innovators bridge the gap between proof of concept and full-scale implementation.