Climate change, which is increasing the severity and frequency of floods and droughts, is adding to the water security conundrum. [Photo/ Eatthis]
Climate change, which is increasing the severity and frequency of floods and droughts, is adding to the water security conundrum. [Photo/ Eatthis]

Water pollution and climate change, coupled with rapid population growth makes water security in Africa a hot topic, widely debated and written about.

June 6 was World Environment Day with a focus on restoring the environment. In March World Water Day, was celebrated themed Valuing Water. It focused on what water means to people; its true value – beyond pricing – to the environment, its social and cultural value people place on water; and how we can better protect this vital resource.

The question posed for individuals to answer was: How much do you value water? One story related is that of a migrant worker from Kiambu county Kenya, who found a reason to stay in his village and become a farmer when he learnt about drip irrigation and using water efficiently along with improved farming practices.

World Environment Day and World Water Day highlight the value of water for future sustainable living. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development states: “Now more than ever the world needs to transform the way it manages its water resources and delivers water and sanitation services for billions of people. Urgent action is needed to overcome this global crisis, as it is affecting all countries around the world, socially, economically and environmentally.”

UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, is a strategic goal, especially for the African continent because of its connection to other goals and the dependency of many industries on water.

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Closely related is the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, which should bring several key benefits to Africans if the programmes, are implemented, says the AU. One of the key transformational outcomes is an improvement in living standards which includes ensuring that nine out of ten persons will have access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

UN Water states that in the past century global water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population growth and an increasing number of regions are reaching the limit of their capacity to sustainably deliver water services, especially in arid regions.

Climate change, which is increasing the severity and frequency of floods and droughts, is adding to the water security conundrum while, says UN Water, some 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated, increasing pollution of water resources or being re-used. 

Marc Roussel President, Government Services & International Trade and Senior Vice President, Africa, Bureau Veritas, says demographic changes are causing governments to seek innovative solutions to meet increased water demands while maintaining ageing infrastructure; and developing economies need to build new water infrastructure to serve their burgeoning populations.

Bureau Veritas, a global leader in testing, inspection and certification with over 1500 offices and laboratories world-wide including most of Africa, is there to provide support across all stages of water and sanitation Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) projects. This is from environmental impact assessment, feasibility to design review, through to procurement, quality assurance and control, site inspection, personnel qualification and asset integrity management. The goal, to reduce risk, prioritise health, safety, security and the environment, and gain access to a global but reliable supply chain.

Operational Expenditure (OPEX) is also a key project life-cycle consideration. Aging infrastructure and pressure on water supply make maintenance a big issue, says Roussel.

To this end Bureau Veritas helps by providing operational support – such as mandatory inspection and maintenance, outage support, and non-destructive testing – for existing assets. It also provides asset management support including condition monitoring, risk assessment, and performance optimisation.

At an industrial and business level, public pressure and regulatory requirements are mounting for organisations to proactively follow environmental best practices and demonstrate sustainable management of resources like water. 

Roussel says companies need to prove their commitment to sustainable use of water by implementing actionable, traceable policies and providing transparent communication. Several standards can help businesses track and report on their water footprint, uncover water challenges and risks, maintain water quality and provide transparent water governance.

The ISO 14046 certification specifies the principles, requirements and guidelines for assessing the water footprint of products, processes and organisations based on life cycle assessments. Another is the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) standard which helps organisations understand their water use and impacts. Companies work collaboratively to achieve sustainable water management within a catchment i.e. in areas where all water flows to a single destination.

Bureau Veritas, offers certification to several standards, including, ISO 14046, AWS and ISO 55001 Asset Management standard, which organisations can use to improve return on investment, assess, track, improve and report on the management of their environmental impact activities. Roussel says that this way companies build stakeholder trust and boost their sustainability reputation.

“Water unites us all, as people, as cultures, as societies, cities, towns, villages and economies. We cannot afford to get water wrong, and with climate change, urbanisation and population growth, we cannot afford to take it for granted,” said Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General in 2018 when he received the KingHassan II Great World Water Prize during the 8th World Water Forum (Brasilia).

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