The nearly 2,000 water specialists meeting in Stockholm this week have reason to feel aggrieved. Many of those attending World Water Week in the Swedish capital – non-governmental organisations, diplomats, service providers and large multinational companies – have been warning for years that climate change will lead to water shortages and catastrophic flooding. With large parts of Europe, China and America shriveled and parched this summer – in many cases barely a year after being hit by floods – there were many faces of despondency, but also a grim determination to remind people of existing solutions and find new ones. . The problem is that, after years of disregard and a chronic shortage of funds, the glass of investment in the water crisis is not even half full.
On average, countries spend just 0.5% of GDP on water-related issues, according to the World Bank’s global director for water, Saroj Kumar Jha. Meanwhile, climate tech financiers treat this resource like an unwanted stepchild: One investor mentioned that, while more than $50 billion was invested last year in startups focused on renewable energy, emissions reductions and Similarly, water technology only received about 400 million dollars, although this figure is beginning to increase.
Companies are also going a step further, especially those related to agriculture, which globally accounts for more than 70% of all freshwater use. The water and climate-focused 100+ accelerator, created by AB InBev together with Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever, has so far provided some 70 startups with seed capital of up to $100,000 each.
Both they and their rivals are spending more to protect the watersheds in which their factories operate, and are now beginning to quantify the financial and social benefits. A study by consultancy firm Bluerisk of 22 centers operated by Danone, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and Ecolab, which made investments in forestry, water infrastructure, regenerative agriculture and the like, revealed both a large amount of water saved and an average of four times the called social return on investment, a financial measure that includes social impact. Another study carried out by WaterAid showed that absenteeism was reduced by up to 29% when companies invested in clean water and toilets in the workplace and in communities.
The problem is that these are often pilot projects that are not replicated on a large scale, or, as one joker put it, companies often commit “random acts of conservation.” Innovation and investment in water are on the rise, but so are incidences of excess or lack of water caused by global warming. To combat it, it is necessary to open the financial taps.