In July 2010 an initial scoping workshop, attended by engineers, chemists, environmental scientists and water industry experts was run by the EPSRC Process, Environment and Sustainability (PES) Programme to identify possible research themes for a Grand Challenge in the area of ‘Water for All’. One of the major challenges to be identified at the meeting involved exploring ‘Large Scale Solutions to Water Scarcity’ and this has therefore been adopted as the focus of this sandpit. This sandpit will take forward the evolving research agenda in this area to bring fresh approaches to this challenge.
The Research Challenge
The challenge identified for the sandpit is Large scale solutions to water scarcity. A third of the world's population lives in water-stressed countries now. By 2025, this is expected to rise to two-thirds. When the problem of water stress is conflated by poor infrastructure and dense populations, the consequences can be devastating.
Almost two fifths of the world’s population does not have access to adequate sanitation. – Water Aid
It is almost inevitable that competition for sparse heterogeneously distributed water resources will lead to conflict. The threat of water scarcity could become insurmountable if action is not taken quickly to redistribute, reuse, generate and store water on a grand scale. Thus it is timely to explore new strategies and technologies and adapt and improve existing ones that could ultimately lead to water for all. Are there new technologies that could effectively transport fresh water over long distances? Can we efficiently and cheaply recycle the water used in dense populations where little infrastructure exists? Can we find novel ways of storing and cleaning water or generating it from saline sources in an energy efficient manner? The best minds in water research in the UK have often been directed to iterate upon solutions to well established problems within their own fields. With water engineering at the regional to global scale there is an opportunity to redefine the current paradigms and exploit the talent of inter alia, physicists, water engineers, chemists, biologists, earth system scientists, mathematicians and many other disciplines to develop radical new technologies, solutions and strategies.