World’s Most Precious Commodity

The Big Picture

Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meter technology that aims to conserve water and track how it is consumed, published the following infrographic that illustrates the colossal difference in lifestyles between water rich and water poor countries [1].


The infographic ends with the following statement:  “Every $1 spent on water and sanitation produces a $9 return of saved time, lessened health costs, and increased productivity” [1]. This statement should offer all countries enough incentive to improve their water infrastructure, but there remains a multitude policy and unique regional challenges limiting governments.

Closer Look at the Analysis

The study referenced aimed to estimate the economic cost and benefits of five distinct interventions to improve water and sanitation services. The first intervention considers the improvements required to halve the proportion of the population without access to safe drinking water by 2015 (Millennium Development Goal) [2].

The intervention cost was calculated considering the full investment and operational cost. The intervention benefits include increased productivity due to the decrease of those affected by diarrhoeal diseases, time savings due to increased access to safe drinking water, and prevented deaths [2].

The predicted return for developing regions on a US$1 investment ranges from US$5 to US$28 under the first intervention. Although the study disclaims the accuracy of its analysis due to uncertainties of data inputs, it states, “even under pessimistic scenarios the potential economic benefits generally outweigh the costs” [2]

Hurdles to Millennium Development Goal (MDL)

Although the world governments and corporations are shifting towards sustainable practices, the demand for freshwater is estimated to increase 64 billion cubic meters per year. The increased demand is driven primarily by the increase in world population and rising nations [3].

Policy structures build around water resources are susceptible to corruption. According to the Global Corruption Report 2008, corruption in the water sector can increase investments by up to US$50 billion. In some countries, corrupt diversion of funds account for 30% of the budget of water and sanitation projects. The sanitation improvements required to meet the 2015 MDL goals is estimated cost US$9.5 billion, but water supply and sewerage infrastructure in industrial countries could reach US$200 billion a year [3].

Avenues to Consider

Industrialized countries have cut back on their water consumption levels, but improving water governance should be a priority to effectively manage water resources for generations. Innovations in water management could prove difficult to implement, but they should be the focus of research and development facilities across the nation.









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2 responses to “

  1. hzellner2013

    Kuwait shows up on the infographic as having the least amount of renewable water resources and is actually a very interesting case study. Duaij AlRukaibi gave a guest lecture in Dr McKinney’s Water Resource Management and Planning class about Kuwait’s water system and the Sustainable Kuwait Index on Tuesday. They get all of their water from desalination, a very expensive process, yet water is heavily subsidized to the point that water is absurdly cheap. Because the water is disproportionately inexpensively, Kuwaitis have the highest or one of the highest water consumption rate per capita.

  2. waldropmatt

    The water crisis in developing nations is definitely a serious issue, and I hope to see it solved in my lifetime. One thing that I don’t understand or agree with is how many people and organizations group together the lack of clean drinking water in developing countries with excessive water use in the US. For instance, in the graphic that’s shown in the blog post, they conveniently list that it takes 2.5 billion gallons of water to irrigate the world’s golf courses right next to the fact that 2.5 billion gallons is enough water to support 4.7 billion people. Does this mean if we stop playing golf that the water crisis will end?

    I think that too many people are grouping environmental and conservation water policy with charitable water policy for developing nations, when really they aren’t associable. These are two different areas up for debate, and grouping them together stunts the potential good that each could do individually.

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