Water change is essential says IChemE

Posted: Wednesday 15th August 2007

IChemE Chief Executive, Dr David Brown has told the BBC that the developed world must change its policy on water pricing, as part of a wider strategy to aid climate change.

Speaking to the BBC's Green Room, Dr Brown also said that the general public must change its attitude towards water usage, if we are to avoid severe shortages in the future.

"Some consumers simply don't understand the environmental impact of their water usage...Nor do consumers fully appreciate the costs and technological challenges of providing and maintaining water supply and treatment infrastructures," warned Dr Brown.

"Regulatory changes are an important requirement in promoting a more responsible attitude towards water usage, but perhaps the greatest progress will result from greater acceptance of the concept of water reuse, particularly by Western consumers.

"Huge advances are being made in water treatment by chemical engineers across the world. But ironically, it is currently cheaper to use treated water for non-drinking purposes, such as washing vehicles or watering our gardens, than to introduce methods that use alternative sources. This has to change.

"The contributions made by chemical engineers will be crucial in solving the water conundrum," Dr Brown continued.

"But they must be combined with support from governments and international bodies through the implementation of sustainable regional water management strategies, especially by realistic charging.

"Charging for water usage will not only help provide the funding we need to take these technologies forward, but will also help to instill a sense of responsibility among consumers," added Dr Brown.

"Inevitably there will be opposition. Asking people to pay more for their water supplies will not be popular, but it is essential. The word supplies is a key one. This is not about asking people to pay more for water per se, it is about asking people to pay for the water they use.

"Appropriate pricing for water use will encourage consumers to take a more sensible and considered approach to water consumption and help us to reinforce the crucial three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle," said Dr Brown.

Water is one of six key issues addressed in IChemE's technical roadmap - a roadmap for 21st century chemical engineers, highlighting the vital role that chemical engineers can play in solving many of the problems facing our planet.

Dr Brown is the second IChemE expert to contribute to the BBC's Green Room. UCL Professor Stef Simons - an IChemE ChemEnvoy - aired his views on the value of carbon offsetting schemes in June.

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