How will global warming affect the water sector?
Suddenly, global warming is the hot topic of discussion in news channels, papers, magazines and even tabloids. Rising temperatures, melting glaciers and extreme events have become too obvious to be missed. What’s more, a film on global warming An Inconvenient Truth has won an Oscar this year.
But how does the climate change affect the water sector? Some studies are ongoing regarding the impact of changing temperatures and precipitation on water resources, ecosystems and river flows. However, there appear to be few or none on the impacts of these on water utilities and their assets.
It is clear that the business of water treatment and supply as well as wastewater treatment is poised at the threshold of extraordinary challenges. Rising sea levels are about to cause permanent displacement of millions of people and even animals. Due to climatic shifts, rainfall patterns are changing. Drying up of water bodies is driving up the cost of water treatment. Sudden heavy downpours such as the one witnessed in Mumbai some years back are causing serious sewer overflows. Encroaching seas are contaminating freshwater supplies.
Reducing greenhouse emissions is not just the responsibility of power plants and other heavy-duty industries. Water utilities and municipalities have their part to play. Investments in innovative, clean technologies that lower costs and improve outputs in the long run would be an excellent safeguard against climate change. Continuing with obsolete power-guzzling equipment when new, energy-saving models are available is nothing short of callous.
In preparing for climate change, the role of modelling software is assuming a growing significance. Though modelling is a given when it comes to process industries such as petrochemicals and refining in Asia, there is a noticeable vacuum when it comes to water utilities. However, this indifferent state of affairs cannot continue for long.
After the torrential rains of Mumbai disrupted the city’s drainage, the city was forced to consider a disaster mitigation plan using modelling software. As climate turns more unpredictable, it will become imperative for cities to accurately map their pipelines and other assets, monitor them and prepare models in order to counter emergencies.
Flood modelling software can help operators to simulate various scenarios and take proactive steps. It will be possible to consider which streets will get flooded first, the manholes that will overflow first and plan the investments needed to prevent them. Wastewater software can be used to manage sewerage effectively.
Distribution software can allow engineers to model delivery systems and manage assets, including data for underground assets. Leakages can be dealt with and rehabilitation can be carried out systematically.
Over the years, users of modelling software are rising steadily in Asia as the benefits are becoming clearer. There is value-added in almost every sphere – capital cost savings, time savings, operational efficiency, safety and disaster preparedness.
Even if greenhouse gas emissions were stopped from today, the effects of the earlier emissions will continue for a long time. The need of the hour is a massive campaign to prepare for climate change. An inconvenient truth is becoming an inevitable truth.