Deltares and ING: Less water scarcity in a circular economy

Published: 9 March 2017

The transition to a circular economy – an economic system that is geared to the optimal use and recycling of raw materials – would seem to have the potential to deliver a major contribution to reducing water scarcity and the associated consequences. This emerges from the ING report 'Less is more: Circular solutions to water shortages', for which Deltares supplied the datasets.

Last year, ING asked Deltares to study six areas, including the Netherlands. The central issue was whether the introduction of a circular approach – recycling and capturing water, for example – would reduce water shortages in the areas in question. It emerged that this would indeed be the case in all the areas studied. The results are encouraging for the numerous businesses and government authorities worldwide who are working hard on the transition to a circular economy.

The UN’s Water Scarcity Report shows that 700 million people in 43 countries around the world are struggling with the effects of water shortages daily. In addition, the report warns that there will be a point in time at which the effects of water scarcity will become irreversible. Even now, water shortages are causing economic and social tensions between certain users, population groups or governments. The transition to a circular economy may be one way to mitigate water scarcity and the consequences.

Water is a commodity

Water scarcity is a relatively new theme in the debate about the circular economy. Emphasising that water is a commodity means that we need to use it and recycle it in the best possible way.

Femke Schasfoort, researcher at Deltares: ‘As an independent research institute for water and the subsurface, we are pleased with the interest demonstrated by a financial institution like ING in the relationship between water scarcity and the circular economy. It would be a great step forward if water consumption by ING’s partner companies were to be managed on circular principles as a valuable way of preventing shortages.’

summary table English ING

For the purposes of the report ‘Less is more: Circular solutions to water shortages‘, Deltares looked at how measures based on the circular economy can impact the efficient use and recycling of water in agriculture, industry and households. The global water model Water2Invest* was then used to calculate the potential effect of these measures on water scarcity in six countries. The ING economic office conducted further analyses of the results and set out the findings in the report.

*The Water2Invest model was developed by Deltares in collaboration with, among others, Future Water and Utrecht University.