The Global Water Crisis: A Rising Tide of Concern

Sean T. Johnston

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Last month we covered the female frontier trend and other matters related to women. This month we explore the global water shortage and what we call the sustainability blues trend.  While these two subjects may seem unrelated, they are actually closely connected. Close to a billion people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water. This global water crisis has far reaching implications that touch social, economic, environmental and political arenas.

 

– Sheryl Connelly, Ford global trend and futuring manager

 

Turn on your tap, and out flows clean water. Access to clean water is often seen as a basic right by those who have it—and a crisis for those who don’t.

 

In the 2014 Ford Trend book, we acknowledged the world’s growing concern over water. And today, with the recent drought in California and the Flint, Michigan lead contamination emergency still in the news, this problem has become even more severe. Seventy percent of adults surveyed1 agree that it’s a bigger issue than it was just two years ago.

 

United States residents are largely insulated from this growing calamity. But around the globe, more than 1.8 billion people lack access to safe drinking water—roughly a quarter of the world’s population. Nearly 675,000 die prematurely because of poor water sanitation.

In developing nations across Africa and Asia, residents travel over 3.5 miles to find their nearest source of water. Much of the time this burden falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women and girls.

 

The water crisis takes on different forms in different regions. Flooding can be deadly. Elsewhere, seasonal droughts are devastating. In 2015, the World Economic Forum declared the water crisis to be the most devastating risk to society.

 

Necessity is the mother of invention—and across the globe, companies are working hard to put forward sustainable solutions to conserve or create clean water.

 

At Ford, employee Doug Martin recently developed a system that converts the fluid that leaks from a vehicle’s air conditioning system into fresh water. Inspired by a Peruvian billboard that converts moisture in the air into drinking water, Doug’s system pumps reclaimed water into a center console-installed faucet.

 

Las Vegas is home to an incubator called WaterStart that backs the development of water-related technologies. From drones that improve crop irrigation to sound-powered technologies that detect leaky pipes, WaterStart supports a number of concepts to both address the water crisis and create jobs in the process.

 

Water conservation, along with other sustainability issues, is critically important to Ford Motor Company—we’re proud to be one of the first automotive companies in the world with a water strategy, and we are actively working toward our goal of using zero potable water in the manufacturing process.

 

To learn more about the global trends affecting our world, check out the full 2017 Ford Trends report.

 

 

1. BAV Consulting, Global Survey 2016

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