If we look at the virtual water consumption, i.e. the water that is used, evaporated or polluted for the production of goods and services, each of us ends up with around 5,000 liters per day. By the time we get out of the shower in the morning, we have already used more water than people in developing countries have available to them for the whole day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) five liters of drinking water are enough to meet the most
basic needs for drinking, eating and basic hygiene
there. Most of us don't really have to worry about the
wastewater we produce
either. That's being taken care of by others - another given.
Water becomes scarce
Even in our latitudes we are increasingly confronted with the fact that clean and always available water is not a given. The drought and heat of past years lead to
lower groundwater levels
, to streams and rivers that carry noticeably less water, to dying forests.
Precipitation water is the primary form of water supply for human needs and ecosystems. (Micro-)pollutants (such as drug residues or nitrates) from industry, agriculture and our lifestyle additionally burden our water bodies and endanger everything that grows and lives in and around them.
The value of water
For many of us in the Global North, water has no value. The uneven distribution of water resources across the globe explains our often careless, unconscious use of one of the world's scarcest resources. No, not oil, water. Here, water supply was in public hands until the 1990s, and there were many private wells. Only then did private actors enter the scene and with them the discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of the commercialization of water.
It was not until 2010 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the right to "safe and clean drinking water and sanitation" as a human right. Sanitation should be inclusive, and drinking water should be safe, clean, accessible and affordable. 122 countries (including Germany) agreed, while 41 countries abstained (including the U.S.).
So what does this mean?
First and foremost, it is governments and the international community that must ensure that
access to clean water and sanitation
is available globally and to all people. The political, legal and moral dimensions that come into play and the consequences of privatization and national water policies are described in this (German) article on the homepage of Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung in the context of the discussion of other human rights and the
establishment of a human right to water
Water as a commodity
water is also considered - and traded - as a commodity and economic good
How this looks like on the part of Nestlé and other large corporations such as Danone and Coca-Cola can be read as an example in this article.
Water between efficiency, profit and social responsibility
Wells, dams, water supply systems are all areas that are caught between efficiency, profit and social responsibility. We at Wasser 3.0 as players in the field of wastewater treatment, also operate in this environment. When it comes to water,
efficiency cannot be thought of without social responsibility
, just as, conversely, social responsibility cannot be thought of without efficiency. The same applies, in our view, to profits.
Wasser 3.0 as sustainability entrepreneur
We have therefore consciously decided to act as a non-profit GmbH (limited liability company) in the sense that we work profit-oriented in our research and innovation projects, but that these profits do not flow into the personal spheres of individuals (shareholders, investors, etc.), but are directly reinvested in research, education and awareness raising projects, according to our statutes.
Closely associated to social entrepreneurship, we see ourselves as sustainability entrepreneurs.
3 consequences for our work
For our work,
water being understood as a human right and an economic good
putting responsible research, development and innovation at the service of concrete contributions to the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
exploring the intersections of intellectual property, patents and common good and consciously positioning ourselves there, for example by communicating our research results open access - that is, accessible to everyone.
taking ecological and social impact as equally important as economic impact, out of deep conviction and in line with our overall mindset.
With these rather fundamental considerations, we conclude our focus on water for the time being and turn to the topics of microplastics and micropollutants in the coming weeks.
Do you have any suggestions for us, have you come across an error or do you have a question? Then we look forward to hearing from you. You can download our infographics free of charge here.