Needed: “An Inconvenient Truth” for Water
Sep 14, 2010
Watch out Al Gore! I heard a fascinating presentation from the Chairman of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, on the global water crisis.
Not since seeing Gore present an early version of the presentation that became An Inconvenient Truth have I seen an environmental issue presented in such a compelling and urgent manner.
For context, this was a small session for the Young Global Leaders at the World Economic Forum’s Tianjin meeting. I first saw Al Gore present an early version of An Inconvenient Truth at a similar-style gathering in Davos. There were only 30 of us at the Al Gore meeting (so he did not use a cherry picker), several participants shifted their lives and companies towards addressing climate change. A similar feeling came out of this meeting, with several of us attending saying that something must be done.
We need “An Inconvenient Truth” about water.
Peter’s style was highly convincing from a statistical and data perspective (for a CEO audience), but we need to find a way that some of his data can be presented in a compelling manner to show people how it affects their lives. His presentation needs some more storytelling to it so that non-numbers people like me can relate.
Here’s some aspects of his presentation that I found most interesting, much of which comes from a study Peter worked with McKinsey to produce.
Based on current trends, water usage will be 40 percent above the current available water supplies by 2030.
Worse than this global figure, however, is the plight faced by many regions in the developing world. Roughly one-third of the world’s population is concentrated in countries where the water deficit will be larger than 50 percent.
Industrialization is a key drivers of the shortage, with withdrawals coming from:
1- Agriculture: 71 percent of global water withdrawals now, dropping to 65 percent by 2030.
2- Industry: 16 percent now, rising to 22 percent by 2030
But what about improvements in water usage? Unfortunately there is not much improvement going on. Efficiency of water usage takes place at an annual rate of roughly 1 percent per year for both agriculture and industry.
Already the supply/demand gap is prompting some communities to unsustainably tap aquifers, rivers and wetlands.
What can be done? Make An Inconvenient Truth for Water!