This is a blog post from Michael Spencer, one of the authors of an upcoming IWA Publishing title and also a speaker at the upcoming IWA-IDB Innovation conference in Ecuador. 

Find out more about the conference here. 

Are water professionals part of the problem as well as a key to solving the world’s water crisis?

Does the need for behavioural solutions to our water challenges create a parallel need for culture change in the water industry?

This new research project based at Monash Business School in Australia, is building a data base from interviews with water-using industrial and agricultural sites, for understanding motivations and constraints for industry engagement in water stewardship. The project is interested in large businesses as well as small and asks facilities about current practice, water improvements and the drivers for those improvements as well as perceived costs and benefits for participating in water stewardship programs. The sites have all had some exposure to water stewardship through training or an introductory program. Water stewardship engages facilities in the challenges faced by the watershed where they are based and builds collaboration and participation in programs beyond the fenceline to address these shared challenges. It builds on recommendations made in a series of international reports such as the World Bank 2030 Water Resources Group report Charting our water future (2009) and more recently the UN-World Bank High Level Panel on Water An Agenda for Action (2018).

These reports and others have argued that current practices will not address the world’s water crisis and that behaviour solutions involving industry and other water-users must be part of the solution. But progress has been slow. At the forthcoming IWA-IDB Sustainable Water Use conference in Ecuador and a forthcoming book to be published by IWA, I will argue that the culture of water management needs to change before consuming industries can be fully engaged in developing and delivering solutions. To date, the project has collected more than 50 interviews with water-using sites in China, Australia and New Zealand. Over the next few years the size of the database will continue to be developed in order to build a stronger model for understanding how to engage industry. But an initial finding is that most industry is reluctant to become involved in water management outside their fenceline unless prompted while water management agencies are too willing to assume all responsibility for water management and are reluctant to adopt behavioural or management-change solutions.

Two papers will explore these issues in Equador; one will look at the interaction between water professionals and industry and its role as an obstacle to behavioural solutions and the other will review results from surveys in two industrial parks in China. These presentations offer a new twist to the old adage that “every water problem starts with someone’s water solution.

Michael Spencer is one of the co-authors of "Sustainable Water Use By Industry"

Expected publication is late 2020. 





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