To know where we need to go in the future, we must fully understand where we are today. Ekopak’s story is inextricably linked to the world’s rising water demand and shortages. While a sustainable approach to water usage has become ever more relevant, this has continuously fortified Ekopak’s focus and determination to offer real, viable solutions to a situation that endangers everyone on this planet.
Water demand: the world’s excessive thirst
Since the 1980’s the global use of freshwater rises at a rate of roughly 1% every year. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2021 attributes much of this growth to a combination of population growth, economic development and shifting consumption patterns. Agriculture currently accounts for 69% of global water withdrawals, says the report, which are mainly used for irrigation but also include water used for livestock and aquaculture. Industry (including energy and power generation) accounts for 19%.
Water availability: an (in)exhaustible resource
While the demand for water keeps increasing, water availability is decreasing. In absolute terms, the total renewable freshwater resource in Europe is around 3,500 km³ per year. The Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus and the densely populated European countries have the least available water per capita.
Belgium also feels the effects of the climate change: forecasts indicate that our region will continue to have a very high probability of long dry periods in the summer months, after having recently faced four consecutive summers with periods of extreme drought. Aside from endangering the drinking water supply, the droughts have another dangerous effect on society. While it does rain less often, the rainfall – when it eventually happens – has become more concentrated and intense. This has elevated the risk of devastating floods after heavy rainfall, as the preceding periods of drought have reduced the capacity of the soil to absorb and drain water.
The effect: water stress and blue out
A structural water shortage is looming in the future. Water stress – a shortage of drinking water versus the demand – affects many parts of the world. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2021 reports that over two billion people live in countries experiencing water stress, which may lead to many devastating consequences.
Many companies today are still entirely dependent on drinking water for their processes or production because it is the only source of water available to them. Yet as this water source threatens to fluctuate or fall away completely, companies’ product and process continuity comes under threat.
The answer: a paradigm shift in water management
The analysis of the current global water demand and availability makes it clear that an adaptation to climate change is urgent and needs a global approach. It is precisely here that Ekopak identifies its potential to be a catalyst for change, by raising awareness among companies that more sustainable water use within the industry is possible thanks to decentralized and renewable water sources. In this way, Ekopak takes up its responsibility in the realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These SDGs are the goals the world is setting for 2030, as a framework to evolve towards sustainable development. “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all“ is the official wording of SDG 6, aiming for clean water and sanitation for all people.
Within SDG 6 you can find six ‘outcome-oriented targets’: safe and affordable drinking water, end open defecation and provide access to sanitation and hygiene, improve water quality, wastewater treatment and safe reuse, increase waster use-efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies, implement IWRM (integrated water resources management), protect and restore water-related ecosystems. Next to SDG 6 water is also an important element in SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure) and SDG 13 (climate action). Water plays indeed an important role within the industry and is closely linked to the climate.