Environment minister focuses on water reserves

Ida Auken says we can no longer afford the luxury of using clean drinking water for other means, and looks to apply Danish technology to the global problem of water waste

The environment minister, Ida Auken (Socialistisk Folkeparti), is calling for action on the global water crisis and wants to export Danish-produced solutions to the problem.

Auken has been discussing the issue and potential options at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.

“We need to secure sustainable management of the world’s water resources, which will endure extreme pressure in forthcoming decades due to climate change and soaring population numbers,” Auken told Berlingske newspaper. “And one of the things we can do is to limit water waste.”

Auken told Politiken newspaper that part of the solution is getting more use out of 'secondhand' water – water that is not clean enough for human consumption. 

"Today, when we flush the toilet, take our cars through the car wash and water our garden, we use clean drinking water," Auken said. "That is a luxury, and maybe we can use some of that not-so-clean water to those types of things – and maybe in that way save both drinking water and money."

The government, with the support of Enhedslisten, has set aside eight million kroner to look into uses for secondhand water.

Saving the world’s water resources has become a primary concern because experts maintain that half of the world’s population will live in areas that lack water by the year 2030 if nothing is done.

According to the consultants McKinsey & Company, water wastage accounts for almost 950 billion kroner worth of lost global resources every year and in some places up to 80 percent of the water is lost before it even ends up in the taps of consumers.

Auken sees the potential for exporting Danish solutions to the problem. The Danish export of technical water solutions is already a massive business, netting about 15 billion kroner annually, and the global market for technological water solutions is estimated to be 2.5 times more lucrative than the wind energy market.

“There are many cities around the world that lack water but still waste up to 50 percent of the water they have access to due to poor water systems,” Auken told Berlingske. “But the good news is that there is widespread support to ensure that there will also be water for future generations.”

Auken hopes that water will be one of the key areas of focus when the 2015 climate goals, eight climate goals that were agreed to by the world in 2000, is up for revision.

The first steps towards securing water resources were taken in the summer of 2012 when the UN held the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During the conference it was agreed that there must be clear goals on how the world’s natural resources, such as water, oceans and agriculture are used.

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