The pump industry is working to bring clean water to communities in need, and GE is one of these companies using their technology and resources to make a difference. In the May 2015 issue of Pumps & Systems, our Gift of Clean Water coverage featured an article about GE's partnership with WaterStep to design and develop a chlorine generator that has been used to save lives in more than 30 countries. Amelia Messamore, managing editor of Pumps & Systems magazine, recently spoke with GE Water's Chief Marketing Officer Ralph Exton to discuss the significance of clean water and how pumping technology provides access in remote parts of the world.
P&S: Why is water such a significant issue in developing countries? What factors influence access to safe and reliable water sources?
Exton: According to the United Nations Development Program, more than one billion people, or about one in six worldwide, have no access to safe drinking water, and more than two billion lack access to adequate sanitation. If current water usage trends continue, by the year 2025 two-thirds of the world’s people won’t have enough clean water. Water resources, even in developed nations like the United States, are being threatened by climate change, drought, population growth, waste and the growing demand for energy, which requires enormous amounts of water. The widespread adoption of water reuse practices and policies can be the key to immediately and effectively reverse the global threat of clean water scarcity.
P&S: What are the most important steps to combating the water crisis, specifically in developing countries?
Exton: As the world faces growing water scarcity challenges, the need for conservation and recycling of water is more important than ever before. Nearly 20 percent of the world’s freshwater resources is used for industrial purposes. However, by applying existing technologies and systems, industrial plants can capture, purify and reuse their wastewater, in order to reduce the amount of freshwater required. Typically, it is possible to recover 70 percent to 85 percent of wastewater through membrane-based technologies and advanced chemistries and achieve more than 98 percent recovery through crystallization and evaporative technologies. Water also can be reused for many other purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, groundwater recharge and other non-potable uses such as heating and cooling. This can further reduce the amount of freshwater required. On a municipal level, water reuse can enable communities to become less dependent on groundwater and surface water, and can decrease the diversion of water from sensitive ecosystems.
P&S: What are the most important things people should know about the water crisis, and what are organizations and companies doing to combat it?
Exton: Over the last twelve years, the dialogue around the global water crisis has transitioned from scarcity to resiliency. For decades, water scarcity was hotly debated; we now recognize that it is an unfortunate, and permanent, reality. The world does not have enough water, so how we preserve and sustain what we have for the long term is critical.
A call for resiliency — the ability to prepare for, respond to and learn from a major disruptive event — is particularly urgent given the intensity of climate change. Every day, weather-related disasters put substantial pressure on the world’s water systems, from infrastructure to treatment technology. Vigorously pursuing a resilience approach today is the world’s best chance at safeguarding tomorrow. The global water industry — supported and spurred by recent international and domestic policies and incentives — has consensus on four principle pillars of water resiliency prior to, during and after hydrological water events: Robustness, Resourcefulness, Rapid Recovery, and Adaptability. GE and other companies are doing our part to help drive awareness and adoption.
Some real-world examples of how organizations have embodied each principle, include: