Our water feature this issue highlights how this most precious resource, which is the most vital element to any aspect of human survival, is treated casually by so many people around the world. Most people and businesses in developed countries take it for granted that if we need water, it will be there – clean, abundant and in the quantities we need. And let’s not forget that almost one billion people have no access to clean water at all.
Water supplies are under threat – population growth, climate change, over-abstraction, agriculture and infrastructure all play their role. Even worse, plastic in oceans and its effects on marine life and the dangers of plastics entering human food chains, along with toxic elements and poisons being discovered in water, are all occurring today. Worse still, water can be used as a political or military tool by state and non state actors, as well presenting an attractive target to terrorists.
Given the above, it is clear to see why water is classifi ed as such a vital element of critical national infrastructure – it is not only essential to our survival, but also to our security, wellbeing, health, businesses and livelihoods.
One only has to turn to recent events in Cape Town to gain an understanding of just how cataclysmic it would be if a city simply runs out of water. All aspects of life would be affected, raising the spectres of disease and threats to security. Thankfully, Cape Town’s Day Zero has been postponed to 2019, thanks to extreme water conservation and other measures, but other cities around the world face similar threats. See p34 for an article on how the Brazilian city of São Paulo coped with its own water crisis, and what measures need to be undertaken to conserve its future supplies and the viability of the city itself.
There are always solutions, but they can be extreme. Communities, businesses and individuals – including all those involved in emergency management, preparedness and response – must all recognise the contribution they can make towards ensuring water supplies are sustainable, and remain so.
Technology can also play its part. Both Laurie Reynolds (p38) and Matt Minshall (42) discuss how artifi cial intelligence, machine learning, sophisticated digital technology and geospatial information – among others – can help secure, protect, monitor and conserve supplies.
It is time to afford this vital resource the respect and attention it needs.