The Water Sector

We’d like to start you off here with some statistics about China.  And H2O.

China accounts for 30% of the world’s population but has only 7% of the world’s freshwater supply.

Since 2008, China has added more than 50 million people.  Stop for a moment and think about that.

That’s like adding two Australias.  Or ten Greeces.   In just a few years!

While China has been adding these people to its population, the freshwater resources available to this expanding population have dropped by over 11%.  There’s a danger for China that their annual consumption of 600 billion cubic meters will leave a deficit of more than 200 million cubic meters by 2030.  The government has taken note of this.  According to a current article in China Daily, the government’s Ministry of Water Resources says that it will invest more than US$22B on water conservancy projects this year alone – and a stunning 1.8 trillion yuan (US$190 billion) by 2015 (again, in just a few years).

That’s a lot of projects – and loads of project managers, who are best off understanding sustainability issues from the ground (water) up.

Take desalination as an example.  Another article in the same issue of China Daily says that current capacity for desalination in China is 660,000 cubic meters.  By 2015, that number is planned to increase to 2.6 million cubic meters, nearly quadrupling their capability.

Opportunity abounds.  Here is a snippet from the article:

Private equity and venture capital firms have been spearheading the “green gold” rush in China. PE and VC investment in China’s water sector has surged more than nine times to $406 million in 2011 from $44.16 million in 2010, according to consultancy firm China Venture.

“In terms of the water sector, China is not one of our company’s priorities in the world. It is our top priority,” says Jorge Mora, Asia CEO of Veolia Environmental Services.

“There is no country in the world that would have sustainable development without water. If you don’t have enough water, it affects every aspect of your life. Your GDP growth and your development can be challenged or even stopped due to a severe shortage of water,” Mora says.

The problem with water in China is exacerbated by the huge manufacturing industry there.  Often, and as recently as January, 2012, water pollution incidents take place that don’t even make the news in the West.

For example:

According to China’s Ministry of Water Resources, as many as 300 million people in China’s rural areas lack access to safe drinking water. Ma Jun, whose environmental organization has been naming and shaming water polluters in China, says that about one-third of the water that is consumed in the urban areas are supplied by impure water sources in China. Ma says the number of companies that illegally emit wastewater in rivers and lakes in China has increased from 2,500 in 2006 to about 60,000.

The most recent case of water pollution: an estimated 20 metric tons of cadmium was discharged by a mining company in the Longjiang River in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region on Jan 15, with cadmium content 80 times higher than the prescribed safe limits.

Check out this video by futurist Patrick Dixon, who covers the China water problem and beyond.

Not good.  Not good at all.  On the other hand – it’s a big opportunity for growth.

And folks – this is just about China, whose water problems are obviously gigantic.  But have a look at the map at the top of the posting.  It’s not just China.  Water resource problems are global.

The opportunity for project managers is immense – in line with the problems outlined above.  Get smart about sustainability, project managers – within your own projects, and about sustainability in general.  The demand, as does water, will seek its own level.  And that level will be high.


Ah, and one more thing.  Be sure to read the post over at People, Planet, Profits, and Projects –  our blog at Projects At Work – there is a posting about water there right now!  Check it out.

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