Urban water security in the face of climate change: A tale of 2 cities – Part Two
Believe it or not, the water crisis is here and impacts developed and developing nations alike. According to the United Nations, by 2025, nearly two billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.
In this episode, we look at how two very different cities are tackling the water security problem and we explore what it’s going to take to secure this fundamental resource for future generations.
We’ll explore the trends, what countries are currently doing to address water security in the face of climate change and what’s getting in the way of taking action on water security?
Meet this episode’s experts
Service Line Leader for Integrated Water Management
Ryan is the Service Line Leader for Integrated Water Management at GHD Digital working with water utilities and communities on solving water security challenges.
São Paulo Representative
World Bank Group
Stela is the National Coordinator for the 2030 Water Resources Group in Brazil. Stela is a geographer and environmentalist and brings extensive experience from working with the public sector in Brazil, at the federal, state and municipal levels focusing on environmental, water resources, housing, and urban planning and development policies.
To learn more about the São Paulo program and others, you can visit the 2030 Water Resources Group website.
Infrastructure Interface Manager
Tim is the Infrastructure Interface Manager for Watercare, an organisation of Auckland Council. Tim has more than 20 years’ experience, in the infrastructure sectors in New Zealand, Australia, China and the United Kingdom, delivering projects and operational services for municipalities and industry. At Watercare, Tim is responsible for interfacing with the transformational projects that are enabling growth in Auckland.
Part Two Highlights
- 4:46 Stela: São Paulo is typically a water-stressed region. Some of the solutions that we pursued have induced stress with the neighbouring regions that are also quite densely occupied.
- 7:01 Stela: During the drought, it was necessary to reduce loss and guarantee that there would be enough water. It had the perverse effect of imposing more hours of water shortages in the periferico [suburbs] neighbourhoods and poor people, low-income population, living in the neighbours in the periferico neighborhoods. So this was an important issue that was a consequence of inequality of infrastructure in the region, aggravated in the drought.
- 8:08 Stela: The urbanisation of the favelas [poorer outlying areas] demand not only heavy investments but especially a good articulation between the different spheres of government: state, municipality and the federal government and also innovative engineering solutions. Also solutions to land ownership and juridical disputes. So it’s not easy. And we are far from solving this problem that has direct consequences on water, of our ability for low-income people.
- 9:15 Stela: This kind of campaign that involves behavioural changes must be permanent. And after the more acute phase was passed, the campaign and the financial incentives were suspended. So under this framework, 2030 Water Resources group that began to work in Brazil in mid-2017 focused on discussing industrial treated wastewater reuse as a complementary policy to reduce the competition for raw and even treated water between population and productive activities. But this is a subject in which there is a lack of knowledge, of experience and of investments in Brazil. And we are Beginning.
- 10:22 Stela: The methodology adopted by 2030, not only in Brazil, but all over the 14 countries in which we work*, is to establish multi-stakeholder platforms and working groups, bringing together these stakeholders, the main stakeholders at least, and discussing with them problems, innovative solutions and responsibilities.
- 13:50 Stela: The best answers, frequently, is not bringing more financial support, at least not only this because governance and collaboration are key to achieve good results. Collaboration between sectors is something that must be built.
- 18:28 Stela: We share the same kinds of problems and discussing these problems and discussing these solutions and the feasibility of our efforts is something that makes us feel that we can grow together.
- 20:52 Ryan: We’re now at a point in most places around the world where we’re over-extracting and we can’t use those same very low cost, low energy water sources. All new water sources are going to be more expensive, whether it’s a pipeline from another catchment, a desal plant or whether it’s localized use of resources, being stormwater, rainwater and recycled water.
- 22:01 Ryan: I think where we’re looking at keeping an eye on, at the moment it’s really just a watching brief is the potential for household scale systems. Onsite, small units that can take domestic waste streams either from the shower or the kitchen or potentially even from the toilet and treat that water onsite for reuse onsite. We have those systems. They’re available. But there’s issues with the cost, with the energy and also the maintenance and operation of them. So at the moment, they’re not really viable at scale as a water management solution.
- 22:54 Ryan: What is becoming accepted is that at least in major urban centres, it’s probably going to be a hybrid approach going forward. It’s probably not, at least in the short run, going to have off the grid developments just because of some of the cost barriers.
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*Addendum: In Stela’s interview she says that the World Bank operates their 2030 Water Resources Group projects in 14 countries, which I echoed in one of my comments. We’ve since found out that it’s 11 countries and 3 regions within India.