Let's double down on resilience
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Let's double down on resilience

This year has already seen a cascade of extreme weather events -- from devastating floods in Pakistan, to scorching heatwaves in the Sahel and West Africa -- leaving an indelible mark on many parts of the world. The increasing number of lives (now already in the tens of millions) affected by extreme weather events further reminds us how vulnerable we are in the face of an increasingly volatile climate and water system.

With climate change supercharging these extreme events, it will only further exacerbate the existing water crisis we are facing today. Despite the efforts that have been set in motion, water remains a growing concern, posing a significant threat to our future.

This World Environment Day which falls on June 5, serves as a stark reminder: to weather the coming storms and droughts, we must double down on our efforts to improve water resilience through innovation, local adaptation and collaboration.

Innovation for speed

The past two decades have seen a surge in innovative water technologies. One good example is how on-demand water supply has been made possible with Internet-of-Things technologies. With remote sensors, the system can monitor real-time water demand and automatically adjust water flow, reducing excessive pressure in the water pipes. This in turn limits water leakages and losses in a city's water infrastructure, minimising cost and energy.

However, these advancements are just the beginning. The escalating climate change demands more. We need to double down on innovation and push the boundaries further to accelerate the change we need. Take flood control as an example -- there are diverse solutions targeted at mitigating the impact of flooding. However, due to ageing infrastructure, more frequent extreme weather events and capacity limitations amid rapid urbanisation, flooding is still wreaking havoc in many cities.

Last year, extreme weather, climate and water-related hazards affected over 9 million people in Asia, with a death toll of over 2,000. More than 80% of the reported hydrometeorological hazards in Asia were flood and storm events. The end of last year saw nearly 100,000 families struggling to recover from devastating floods from persistent heavy downpours that have damaged homes and disrupted roads.

Embracing an innovative and proactive approach to flood control, researchers and businesses are now looking at using real-time data and artificial intelligence to predict where and when a flood may happen and how a city's water infrastructure can work collaboratively to minimise its impact. This includes leveraging new sensor and telemetry technologies to predict and prevent spillages and overflow to enhance a city's sewer security.

Local adaptation

Water crisis manifests differently across the globe. Depending on the country's land area, water challenges experienced by one city can be extreme opposites to another. As a lack of rainfall and an increase in demand led to a water crisis in Thailand's resort island of Koh Samui, Bangkok struggles with the risk of being submerged under rising sea levels exacerbated by poor drainage systems within the city.

It is vital to apply a local lens when tackling water challenges. Doubling down on local adaptation helps sharpen our focus to maximise the benefits. The solar pump is a good example of innovation tailored to local conditions, offering a sustainable and reliable solution by utilising the abundant solar energy available in some regions to power water supply systems.

Beyond the core solar pump technology, local adaptation strategies can unlock even greater benefits. A remote cattle farm station in Australia's outback, spanning nearly 1 million acres (404,685 hectares), raises a herd of more than 13,000 Brahman breeders. Access to fresh water is crucial to their survival, and this station relies on a network of 67 bores.

However, the unique challenge of managing all of these bores falls onto the shoulders of just one person. To address this manpower shortage, solar pump solutions have been ingeniously combined with low Earth orbit satellite technology. This allows the single bore runner to remotely monitor the water supply in real-time, even in areas without cellular network.

The future we inherit is the consequence of the choice we make today. By doubling down on our efforts to innovate, improve and collaborate, we can transform challenges like drought and desertification into opportunities for progress. Weathering the storms helps us get through the present, but it is the relentless pursuit of improvement that propels us toward a more water-secure future.

Rick Holland is, Regional Managing Director APAC -- Water Utility & Executive Director Grundfos, Australia. The article marks World Environment Day on June 5.

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