While Companies Like Pepsi See Success from Water Conservation Efforts, More Work Is Needed, Says Frost & Sullivan

by | Mar 22, 2019

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According to World Bank, with roughly 663 million people lacking access to drinking water and 2.4 billion people worldwide still lacking access to sanitation, water security is still considered to be one of the biggest global risks. But progress is being made. In conjunction with the approach of this year’s World Water Day, companies like PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch have been touting the success of their water conservation efforts, for example.

As part of PepsiCo’s “positive water impact” – that is, the efforts and partnerships the company is engaging in to enable long-term water security for business and others who depend on water availability – the food and bev giant is working with farmers, landowners, businesses, and communities throughout the US, Latin America and South Africa to implement efficient irrigation technology, protect upstream forests, and establish water funds to replenish at-risk watersheds.

Another area of focus is the company’s work with its philanthropic arm, The PepsiCo Foundation, which is partnering with non-profit organizations to expand access to water in some of the world’s most water-stressed areas. The PepsiCo Foundation has led partnerships with Water.org to provide access to affordable financing for water and sanitation improvement projects in India, Inter-American Development Bank to better manage changes in water availability in Latin America, and the China Women’s Development Foundation to expand safe water access in rural areas of China.

Via these initiatives, PepsiCo says it has helped more than 22 million people in underserved communities around the world gain access to safe water since 2006. And the company itself is focusing on making its agricultural supply chain 15% more water efficient in water-stressed areas by 2025.

Multifaceted Approach Is Needed

Still, despite significant efforts from companies like PepsiCo and others, population growth, climate change, and conflict are compounding the water scarcity problem, proving that a “multifaceted solution is required for a truly sustainable future of water access and security,” according to Frost & Sullivan. “Potable water resources are easily disrupted or contaminated as a result of changing environmental conditions and human interference. The traditional model in delivery of drinking water and wastewater services is centralized, leaving little redundancy in place should one component in service delivery be shut down or impaired,” says Seth Cutler, a principal consultant at Frost & Sullivan.

Because of this, locations that are prone to disruption or without water services should think about new models for delivery that increase resilience, Cutler suggests. These might include:

  • Decentralized water supply: Unlike centralized water systems, decentralized water and wastewater systems provide a sustainable and localized option for water supply that comes with a small footprint and quick installation allowing for a plug and play model useful for rural areas and places facing environmental degradation. With major shifts in regulatory policies already underway, adoption of decentralized systems is expected to rise in developing countries.
  • Residential drinking water treatment systems: Growing urbanization and increasing concern of drinking water quality and associated health issues from questionable water supply has boosted the adoption of residential water treatment systems. Technological advances that can focus on niche purification requirements, such as differing needs in developed and developing countries, and the ease in installation, coupled with its compact size and relatively cheaper price, are key decision-making factors when identifying the right system.
  • New financing models: Investment vehicles, such as public-private partnerships (PPP), have the ability to connect investors, especially local financing, to develop water services in underserved areas while offering greater confidence in stable returns moving forward. The water sector can be averse to private ownership, but PPP offers a greater level of public ownership and accountability that can help bridge these concerns.

“It is often difficult to change the conventional way of thinking and action. However, in many instances, it is this mindset that has failed marginalized groups when it comes to equitable access to safe and reliable water services. To ensure an inclusive future for water, new delivery and management methods need to be adopted to provide a greater level of resiliency,” states Cutler. “These efforts combine highly localized quick-fixes, such as residential treatment solutions, to high-redundancy systems through decentralization, and new methods of generating capital investment and accountability through PPP efforts. While a great deal of effort is needed to reach 100% coverage in water services, the solutions are very much within society’s toolbox.”

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