McKinsey and Co.’s former Global Water Resource Initiative founder, and member of the World Economic Form Futures Council, recently wrote about water resources as essential to economic prosperity for the Nature Conservancy’s summer magazine.
“No nation has managed to achieve prosperity without first delivering ‘water security’ — without developing the infrastructure, institutions and practices needed to manage droughts and floods and to ensure a consistent water supply,” said Giulio Boccaletti, the Conservancy’s chief strategy officer.
Boccaletti, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist that has worked on water management solutions from Maine to Ethiopia, noted that 40 percent of watersheds supplying cities are showing signs of moderate to high degradation.
Three factors that affect city water supplies upstream are:
- Increased sediment caused by erosion
- Reduced ability to absorb and release water and recharge aquifers
- Runoff from farms, roads and buildings
Informed development and smarter planning can help leaders make better decisions about hydropower dams, development and other factors that change river systems.
Water funds — a market-based tool — can also help cities, water plants and private companies protect water supplies by paying upstream landowners to improve their practices, according to Boccaletti. At present, the Conservancy has established 29 water funds and 30 more are in the works.
Yet there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other places that could benefit from this approach,” he said.
About 80 percent of cities could reduce sediment and pollution through them, saving an estimated $890 million in municipal utility costs.