World Water Day draws attention to the fact that many people suffer from either too little of this precious resource – with droughts or poor sanitation blighting communities – or too much, with floods and rainstorms causing untold damage.
Changes in the world’s climate mean we are seeing significant changes to where water is, where it isn’t, and the increasingly extreme nature in which it presents itself. Dedicated professionals who can help to manage water resources in the face of these changes are crucial in providing a sustainable future for the planet and its inhabitants.
Mott MacDonald has been in the water business since 1889. It is now a global water sector business and has expertise in all aspects of the water cycle, from ground abstraction and treatment to distribution and sanitation.
We work in both developed and developing countries and make a difference by connecting with academia; participating in professional fora; and engaging with those who decide and implement policy. We have 2,500 water and environment professionals in our business, but we are always looking for more enthusiastic and dedicated people to join us.
However, the challenges facing the water management sector have changed since I started working in the industry in 1984, when it was taken for granted that water would always be available but just needed to be effectively managed.
Now, climate change poses new challenges, as we endeavour to develop new infrastructure while minimising our effect on the environment. Further increases in global temperatures ‘locked in’ due to historic and ongoing carbon emissions mean we need to take climate resilience seriously too. Urbanisation and population growth demand more from limited resources, while increasingly stringent regulatory environments add further constraints to the way we develop water infrastructure.
There are also new opportunities. Asset information management and 5D BIM encourage whole life efficiencies, cutting costs to clients and the end customer. Build offsite techniques are making asset development quicker, safer and cheaper. And smart infrastructure – which applies the digital revolution to our assets – will in time prove to be the most cost effective way of squeezing new efficiencies from old assets. No doubt in 20 years’ time, there will be additional threats and opportunities we have yet to identify or understand today.
All this means that today’s water management professionals need to be ready to learn new skills and to collaborate with professionals from sectors quite remote from water and engineering. Nobody knows how these challenges and opportunities will play out, but I am hopeful that the water sector will evolve, absorbing people with the right skillsets to confront the problems of the coming decades.