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Circular Solution Could Save the World’s Water

Global water stress could subside with a new sustainable approach.

ING and the Deltares Institute, an independent institute for water research, launched a report about incorporating a circular economy. The report, “Less is more: circular economy solutions to water shortages,” says this eco-friendly model has the potential to conserve 400 billion cubic meters of water each year, which is equal to 11 percent of global water demand.

Considering global fresh water demand is expected to grow by 2 percent on an annual basis, a circular model for water usage could reduce this negative environmental impact. By offering an approach catered to reduce, reuse and retention instead of take, make and waste, worldwide industries, including the apparel sector, could implement better water practices in their supply chains.

The report highlights the potential for a circular water system in six core regions, including Bangladesh, California, Ghana, the Netherlands, Northern India and the United Arab Emirates.

As one of the key global apparel hubs, Bangladesh is projected to experience water shortages every year until 2050. With a circular economy, though, the country could cut its water shortages by half, which would save 20 billion cubic meters of water each year.

California, despite undergoing a several statewide droughts, has the potential to axe almost half of the number of years it will experience water shortages. A circular economy could reduce water shortages by more than 90 percent and provide a greener solution for desalination projects.

At a national level, Ghana is expected to experience water shortages in 15 out of the 34 years. Although a circular economy would only minimize shortages for one year, the model has the potential to cut water shortages by approximately two-thirds in the other years, which could conserve 117 million cubic meters on an annual basis.

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With its heavy agricultural sector, a circular economy in the Netherlands could reduce water shortages by up to 25 percent.

Northern India is undergoing major water shortages, since the country is a very water intensive agriculture sector. Although the region is also expected to experience water shortages every year until 2050, a circular economy could reduce those water shortages by one third, while saving 20 billion cubic meters each year.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the most water-starved countries worldwide, and that’s expected to remain the case, with water shortages expected every year through 2050. For the UAE, the circular model could save up to 16 cubic meters of water in a year.

Gerben Hieminga, ING economics department senior economist, also said a circular economy is possible with the collaboration of all international governments, interest groups and populations. This eco-friendly model won’t be able to gain momentum on its own, since global water stress is a result of many economic, political and social conditions.

“Nonetheless, we must be cognizant of the fact that these measures cannot be implemented in isolation,” Hieminga said. “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 behavior, needs to be improved before a circular water solution can be as effective in achieving such positive results.”