Article: Scarcity of water to dry-up job creation


Scarcity of water to dry-up job creation

By 2020, we may see a reduction of 2% jobs globally due to climate change, according to the World Water Development Report 2016 by the UN.
Scarcity of water to dry-up job creation

‘...Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.’— When English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, little did he knew that those two lines of the poem are what the reality of the 21st century would be like. The recently released report by the UN –‘World Water Development Report 2016’ predicts that by 2050, “Regardless of the magnitude of future global, and more importantly local, water deficits, water scarcity is likely to limit opportunities for economic growth and the creation of decent jobs in the coming decades.”

By 2020, we may see a reduction of 2% jobs globally due to climate change, according to the report. In India, for example, a 30-year analysis shows that wages are highly sensitive to rainfall shocks, the World Bank stated.

When job creation will start getting affected by paucity of water, the implications will be far greater than we can imagine. For example, a number of factors are taken into consideration when an investment decision is made and availability of water is one of the reasons. What will be the point of establishing a manufacturing hub if sourcing of water is difficult – which will impact creation of future jobs. The Report gave an example of what happened in Ghana. In 2011, Ghana’s economy grew at 14% with the onset of its first production of oil. However, in 2015 the growth rate was expected to be only 3.9%. This can be attributed to a great extent to the failure to provide the basic water and energy infrastructure to meet the needs of a rapidly growing economy.

Most energy production, and particularly electricity, is either very dependent on cooling water or is generated as hydroelectricity by using water. Biomass, an increasingly important source of energy, is also heavily water-dependent.

The UN Report estimates that well over one billion jobs, representing more than 40% of the world’s total active workforce, are heavily water-dependent. 'Such jobs are found in agriculture, forestry, inland fisheries, mining and resource extraction, power generation and water supply and sanitation, as well as in several manufacturing and transformation industries including food, pharmaceuticals and textiles. Another billion jobs, representing over one third of the world’s total active workforce, are likely to be moderately water-dependent. Examples of sectors with moderately water dependent jobs include construction, recreation, transportation and manufacturing/transformation industries such as wood, paper, rubber/plastics and metals. This means that nearly 80% of the jobs constituting the global workforce are dependent on water.'

In India, the grim picture on water scarcity has started to rear its ugly head with droughts in Maharashtra year after year, and the farmers’ suicides which have been plaguing the country for a while. According to the government data, as many as 3,228 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2015, highest in the last 14 years. Maharashtra is facing drought for the second straight year due to poor monsoon. 

Agriculture suffers first when it comes to paucity of water. And then other industries will slide down. 

"Water crisis is indeed looming large at us," Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation secretary Shashi Shekhar have told the Economic Times. He points out that in India, “If we go by figures, in 2000, we started with 2,000 cubic metres water per person per year. Today, we have reached about 1,500 m3 and in next 15 years it will go to 1,100 m3. At 1,500 cubic metres per person per year itself it is called a crisis. China has declared it a crisis at 1,500 m3/person per year. We are likely to go below that." 

Although the warning bell has been rung, it is still not too late. Managing water now can help us save our future generation. Water crisis and its impact on our jobs have also created a new set of jobs – water management specialists. In Australia, being an engineer in the water industry is a new profession –it entails “technical skills in hydrogeology, water-sensitive urban design, flood-plain assessment and aquifer storage and recovery, management skills, knowledge of water trading, management of environmental flows, emerging and future water quality issues, salinity solutions, etc.” In Spain, the new profession in water management is that of the desalination plant maintenance and operation manager who oversees the process of turning seawater into fresh drinking water, according to the ILO.

‘At times, infrastructure projects – including water projects – have been intentionally designed for high job creation. For instance, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREG) programme in India, which provides work opportunities to some 25% of rural households, has largely focused on water projects, such as water conservation and harvesting, irrigation and flood, and drought protection (Government of India, 2012). Another example is South Korea’s Four Rivers Restoration Project, which directed some US$86 billion towards the creation of thousands of jobs in water management following the economic crisis (Ministry of Environment/Korea Environment Institute, 2009)’ – the Report documented. 

Coca-Cola is an example of a company leading innovation in water use in the drinks/beverages sector. Operating in more than 200 countries, and through some 300 bottling partners, it had set a target to improve water-use efficiency in its plants by 20% by 2012 against a 2004 baseline. Efficiency is defined in terms of a 'water-use ratio', i.e. the volume of water used (within a bottling plant) to make one litre of beverage. The company has said that, by 2010, it had achieved 6 years of consecutive reduction in the water-use ratio, with a 16% improvement on the 2004 baseline (The Coca-Cola Company, 2012). 

UEM India is a Toshiba Group Company, who provides Engineering, procurement and construction  (EPC) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) services for water & wastewater treatment plants in multi countries not only in India.

Reliance Industries Limited in their Jamnagar Export Refinery Project has a fully automated &PLC operated effluent treatment plant. The effluent treatment area is designed to contain and treat all internal process/utility waste water and storm/firewater, with the objective of zero discharge from the new refinery complex.

In Vietnam, water is currently recognized as the most critical issue for sustainable coffee growing in Vietnam, and Nestlé purchases roughly 20% of total Robusta coffee produced in the country for its global activities. Nestlé implemented a number of best practices within its Farmer Connect network of 12,000 farmers working with other key local stakeholders for wider dissemination and scale up. Adoption of best practices allows improved water-use efficiency, generation of higher income for farmers through cost reduction linked to labour and energy, and higher yields, compared to the current average. Hence, farmers reap direct positive impacts on local sustainable drinking water availability.

Global water demand (in terms of freshwater withdrawal) is projected to increase by some 55% due to growing demands from manufacturing (400%), thermal electricity generation (140%) and domestic use (130%). Failing to invest in water management not only represents missed opportunities but may also positively have the reverse impact and impede economic growth and job creation, effectively resulting in jobs loss.

This article is based on the World Water Development Report 2016 – Water and Jobs. WWAP (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme). 2016. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2016: Water and Jobs. Paris, UNESCO.


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Topics: Assessments, #Jobs

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