The World Economic has cited “a global water crisis” as the biggest threat facing humanity during the next century. Meanwhile, global water demand is projected to increase by at least 2% annually over the next few decades, which is only likely to exacerbate current challenges. In that context, ING has released a new report, Less is More: Circular Economy Solutions to Water Shortages, which claims circular solutions in the water sector could cut global demand by 11%.

Produced in partnership with Deltares, an independent knowledge institute for water and subsoil, the report aims to lay out the beginnings of a circular model for water usage. The model aims to transform the water system into one that is regenerative by design, focusing on ensuring that water retains its quality and can be cycled multiple times.

Focusing on the potential of water solutions based on circular economy principles in six regions: Northern India, California, Ghana, UAE, Bangladesh and the Netherlands, ING and Deltares analyse the opportunities.

The potential solutions uncovered in the research were not enough to eliminate water shortages altogether, but the research find potential savings of 400 billion m3 of water annually, 11% of global water demand, and close to the equivalent of the yearly consumption of the US.

Breaking down the opportunities for each region, the research supports the idea that applying regenerative principles could make a significant difference to the consumption of the world’s most important resource. Speaking about the work, Gerben Hieminga, ING Economics Department said:

“As our findings demonstrate, circular water measures certainly have high potential to reduce water stress. Applying the principles of the circular economy requires transformative change of current linear water systems, which in turn also presents businesses with a range of opportunities throughout the supply chain.”

“Nonetheless, we must be cognisant of the fact that these measures cannot be implemented in isolation,” says Hieminga. “Barriers to progress, such as costs of implementation, regulatory control and free water rights, as well as the entire water cycle from supply, demand and behaviour, needs to be improved before a circular water solution can be as effective in achieving such positive results.”

The potential of applying the circular economy lens to water is gradually gaining traction, at least conceptually, Read our in-depth feature published earlier this year, which looked at the drivers of change and some of the key factors in a transition.

Download the report: ING Group

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