Even the water tower of Europe feels water resources under pressure.
Switzerland is a water-rich country. The country is a huge reservoir, right in the heart of the continent, which is why it is also known as “the water tower of Europe”. 1’500 lakes and 61’000 kilometers of rivers cover around 4% of the surface of Switzerland. You can drink water from almost any tap or wash your hands, shower, cook, water your plants, or even wash your car around the clock. Swiss water has more to offer than direct consumption: 56% of the electricity generated comes from hydropower plants. But even Switzerland, with its universal availability of safe drinking water and sanitation feels the pressure to sustainably manage water sources.
But not every nation is in the same fortunate position. In the wake of climate change, water scarcity is increasing, and the understanding of the role of water in food security is growing. For instance, there are many countries where people have no tap water or any kind of access to clean water.
Water scarcity and bad sanitation affects billions of people in the global North and South
Only 3% of all water on Earth is freshwater, with population growth, the production and consumption of goods, as well as climate change increasingly weighing on supply. Due to the climate crisis the global water cycle is destabilized, and we are experiencing increasing floods and droughts. As a result, water is neither where it is expected nor where it is needed.
Today around 40% of the global population is affected by water scarcity. Another 2.4 billion people do not have access to basic sanitary installations. Thus, every two minutes a child dies from a water-related disease. Besides health hazards, polluted water can also affect ecosystems. Less than 20% of all wastewaters is currently being treated. Urban centers lose up to 25% of their water through leaks in the pipe network. But it does not have to stay that way.
More clean water through treatment, efficiency gains and ecosystem protection
The good news is that plenty of companies are aware of the challenges around water and can provide technological solutions such as water treatment, water efficiency solutions, as well as ecosystem protection and restoration.
Wastewater treatment plants, purifiers, filters, and remediation services are essential to provide clean and safe water to everyone. But clean and safe water needs also to be used effectively. For instance, industry and farming can use water more consciously and thus more efficiently. Decreasing use and increasing water reuse also means that less water needs to be treated.
Protection and regeneration of ecosystems bring further positive effects for natural water treatment, as well as retention. Typically, this involves water-related ecosystems, such as mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. The best results are reached through integrated water management, including open discussions about water use and water rights – also across international borders.
Global access to clean water and sanitation needs to be ensured
In Switzerland, every person uses around 300 litres of drinking water per day, mostly for the toilet, the shower, to wash clothes and to clean dishes. These sanitary installations prevent precarious hygiene situations. However, if we don’t take care of our resources, this privilege is at risk. Together we can make sure, that access to clean water and sanitation does not remain a privilege for the few, but that it becomes a global normal.
Investors can address the funding gap for the sustainable provision of clean water and sanitation as described in SDG 6. For a more detailed view on how to invest sustainably, see our Investment Website.