The end of the year is the time to look back at the year. But it’s also the time to look forward. NWP’s chairman Sybe Schaap focuses on the challenges of the growing global water stress. In his blog he notes that the Dutch water sector is well positioned to help reduce this problem. Continuous innovation is key.
"I fully agree that we need to make every effort worldwide to contain climate change. There can be no misunderstanding about that. The only problem is that these huge challenges are first translated into CO2 reduction, and thereafter to the energy transition. You are thus caught in a trap that becomes narrower all the time. This pushes aside another very important matter that does not get the top priority it needs: the growing global water stress. Rivers are falling dry and groundwater supplies are becoming exhausted. This has an immediate effect on agriculture.
Harvests fail, food prices rise and great political tensions arise. Groups that have lived together peacefully for a long time suddenly become enemies. And the result is that people leave home and hearth behind them. This is how massive flows of refugees come about. Look at Syria, Iran, Yemen, and the north of Kenya. The north of China is now drier than Saudi Arabia. Drought is a geopolitical assassin, we are facing a worldwide water crisis. All the alarm bells are ringing and it is in everyone's interest that we intervene, and quickly, on a global scale."
"The most benefit can be achieved in agriculture because this is where by far most of the water goes. Industrial process water and drinking water follow at a distant second and third place. There is a lot to be gained, because half of all irrigation water is quickly lost in evaporation and by inadequate equipment and over-watering. It is here that the Dutch water sector has a lot to offer. Think of irrigation techniques, satellite technology and sensor technology in an integrated approach. These have long been the country’s focus in water and agriculture, and especially at NWP and at the embassies, many of which have long had agricultural attachés. But we need to step up efforts. The use of waste water is also an important issue. It was a hot topic during the recent mission to Jordan which I was part of. Jordan is facing a deepening water crisis and Jordanians are among the most water-deprived populations globally. The country’s lack of water resources impacts its economic growth, political stability and national security. The mission could be the prelude to intensive collaboration between Jordan and the Netherlands in the near future.
We are not only talking about water, but also about seed and propagating material. The Netherlands is a leader in crop breeding and is increasingly looking at drought and salt-tolerant crops. This offers opportunities to re-use agricultural land with brackish groundwater and make more efficient use of scarce groundwater."
When it comes to identifying and implementing solutions, financing becomes increasingly important. We can be really proud of our solid financial foundation to face our own water challenges. We have water board taxes, we have secured money for the protection of our delta. This financing is not sensitive to economic fluctuations and does not suffer from the issues of the day. Our solid and sustainable financing system is also an expertise that we can and must offer internationally. And I notice a growing interest in it.
And let’s not forget that this solid and sustainable financing, along with mandatory laws and regulations, has boosted continuous innovation on our home market. This is essential for the Netherlands and for our exports. According to the Dutch water sector itself, innovation is key to maintain and compete on the international market. This is stated in the new ‘Water Sector Export Index’, the WEX for short.
The WEX shows an anticipated growth in the sector in 2019. And not only in distant countries, but also those closer to home, in Europe. This is more familiar territory, there are fewer obstacles, and several countries still have to catch-up considerably in order to comply with European regulations. And there is money as well.
So for me in short, 2019 will be characterised by continuing to innovate to further strengthen our strong home base from which the sector will continue to seize opportunities in Europe and will contribute to fighting global water stress. On behalf of all of us here at NWP I wish you a Merry Christmas and a successful 2019 in which we continue to work together on these global water challenges.