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Ten years hence

Ten Points About the Water Supply

February 11, 2005

On Feb. 11, 2005, George Oliver, president and CEO of General Electric's Infrastructure Water & Process Technologies, presented, "The Future of Water," which contained the following excerpts:

  • Though earth's surface is 70 percent water, only 1 percent is useful today for drinking or industrial use. Of the 2.5 percent that is fresh water, 31 percent is ground water and 70 percent is glaciers and snow cover.
  • Water-related illness is a global public health crisis. In developing nations, more children will die from unsafe drinking water than from HIV.
  • An increasing number of regions will experience water stress in the near future. Huge swaths of North Africa, the Middle East, India and China are now severely water-stressed, meaning less than 1,000 cubic meters of water are available per person per year—the amount deemed necessary to satisfy basic needs for food, drinking water, and hygiene.
  • Forty percent of the water supply is wasted. Agriculture in particular wastes a significat amount.
  • The water outlook is a global situation with regional solutions, requiring a combination of policies and technologies to keep supply and demand in equilibrium.
  • Solving shortages will require boosting industrial, agricultural and municipal efficiency. The industrial sector demands 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's water, so any effort that reduces demand frees up the supply of drinking water.
  • It will also be necessary to upgrade infrastructure in the stressed areas as well as the means of water transport.
  • Desalination, filtration separation and other innovations will become increasingly important technologies. As water purification requires energy use, those technologies will also be developed.
  • Reuse technology will cut the percentage of water wasted to a fraction.
  • Water as an industry, which currently is a huge concern worth about $360 billion globally, will provide significant financial growth opportunities for companies such as GE engaged in the needed technologies and services.

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