We are on our third attempt since the 1980s to provide universal access to water.

SDG 6 – achieving clean water & sanitation for all by 2030, was not on track even before the pandemic. According to the UN, the rate of progress needs to quadruple if we are to get there by 2030.

One of the fundamental challenges we face is that the UN’s sustainable development goals use outdated assumptions of water availability; water scarcity is not adequately taken into account and if we were to roll out the established Victorian system of piped water to every home, to an extra 2 billion people will most certainly end up replicating all of its current problems.

A paradigm shift is needed which focuses on innovations in technology, but also within business models: how can we realise the market opportunity of meeting SDG6?

Paul O’Callaghan, CEO, BlueTech Research, recently conducted a thought leadership interview with David Lloyd Owen, author of ‘Global Water Funding: Innovation and Efficiency as Enablers for Safe, Secure and Affordable Supplies’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

David began following the water sector in 1989, previously at BNP Paribas and Ecofin Limited and is a member of the Advisory Board for the Pictet Water Fund. He has been carrying out detailed surveys for clients on the current status and future role of PSP in water in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas since 1995. These have evolved into studies on specific aspects of privatization and the analysis of PSP’s evolution since the 1980s. Three major surveys on the practicalities of global water finance have been published between 2006 and 2020.

The conversation sets the scene on our current progress towards SDG6 and asks the following questions:

• What is the role of the private sector?
• How do we make water affordable for people?
• Are bottled water kiosks the “cell phone” of water infrastructure?
• Rural vs. urban – which problem do you solve first?
• What innovative practices and technologies for water and sanitation exist? How do they scale up?
• Funding vs. the funding gap – how much money have we spent and how much more money is required

BlueTech will be producing a report in the near future looking at both how alternative business models will shape the water industry between now and 2030, and where the business opportunities are in addressing SDG6. We believe it to be one the most significant market opportunities in the water sector so far.

This article also takes a look at how nations can be lifted out of water poverty through water innovation.