The Importance of Water

The world faces an unprecedented crisis in water resources management with profound implications for global water supply, industry developments, agricultural production, protection of human health, and maintenance of aquatic ecosystems. Water shortages threaten to reduce global food supply, while the world’s population grows by 80 million people each year.   With current trends, by 2025, one-third of all humans will face severe and chronic water shortages. The sustainable extraction level for many water resources is slowly exceeding acceptable benchmarks which can have detrimental environmental consequences. This is already evidenced by reduction in current water quality and growing threat on our biodiversity.

Importance of water to industrial development

Quality water in large quantities is often required as a critical raw material in many industrial processes (United Nations, 2003). Industrial water use represents approximately 23% of total global freshwater consumption (United Nations, 2005 & World Economic Forum, 2008). Water as a raw material can be used as a solvent, coolant, fire extinguisher, transport agent and energy source (BP, 2010) particularly in the chemical industry. Companies across all sectors use a significant amount of water to create wealth, benefiting the communities around them through their products and services. Major industrial users such as power plants utilize water particularly for cooling or as a power source (e.g. hydroelectric plants) (Alhassan, 2009) as well as ore and oil refineries using water that is involved in certain chemical processes (Queensland Nickel Refinery, 2004). All stages of mining production rely on water, either for exploratory drilling, production and/or site rehabilitation, as well as during downstream processing (Roberts et al. 2005).

Companies across all sectors use a significant amount of water to create wealth which either incidentally or directly benefit the communities around them. This is...