The theme for the United Nation’s World Water Day this year is “Water and Jobs.” In getting the message out, the UN and its partners have underscored the fact that, globally, one billion people work in agriculture, fishing and forestry. It should be clear enough to everyone that the livelihoods of these people depend directly and entirely on the availability of adequate clean water.
Less attention is generally paid to how industry also depends heavily on the availability of reliable clean water sources. Of the fresh water used in human activities around the world, 19 percent is consumed in industrial uses. Precious little industrial activity would be possible without this vital resource, and the jobs associated with industry are at immediate risk in any region where the availability of water resources is in doubt.
The chemical industry has a particularly close relationship with water resources. This is a two-way relationship – because we rely on access to water to make our products, and we also provide the technologies that recycle and purify water – so that it can be used efficiently and responsibly for any purpose, with the least impact on our natural environment.
At LANXESS, the chemicals we produce, from pigments and plastics to preservatives and additives, nearly all require the use of significant quantities of water at some stage of their manufacture. That is why the chemical industry, from its earliest days, first took hold on the banks of major rivers – like the Rhine and Ruhr in Germany. Many other industries, like power production and steel manufacturing, similarly depend on access to water.
Then again, the chemical industry today is in fact forefront strong contributor to the global effort to protect our water resources. LANXESS itself is a leading producer of many technologies now in use to remove contaminants from available water sources and to purify wastewater from industrial processes so that it can be returned safely to the natural ecosystem from which it was drawn. At our Liquid Purification Technologies business unit, we produce membranes and ion exchange resins used to clean water in a wide range of applications – in industry, in agriculture and in municipal drinking water systems.
In Slovakia, for example, the Slovnaft oil refinery, like other facilities of its kind, requires access to large quantities of fresh water, to feed the boilers used in its refining processes. That is why the refinery is located on the banks of the Danube River. But the Danube contains mineral content, algae and other contaminants that would take a heavy toll on the equipment at the refinery if it were not removed beforehand. So the site contains a water treatment facility that uses a reverse osmosis process to purify the water. The equipment depends on Lewabrane membranes produced by LANXESS. In countless examples around the world today, industry’s involvement in water resources relates to purifying water and making it available for a tremendous range of critical uses – both economic and environmental.
Clean water is essential to the proper functioning of society. We rely on it for absolutely everything, from feeding our families and fulfilling the basic needs of daily life, to painting our homes, repairing our roofs and generating our electricity. Despite its central role, too many of us take a reliable supply of clean water for granted.
That is why World Water Day is so important. Only by letting people know how necessary clean water is to every aspect of our lives can we place a higher value on it and succeed in using it more wisely. As a business, LANXESS welcomes the theme of jobs that has been linked with World Water Day in 2016. It underscores a fact so basic that most people never pause to consider it: Without a reliable supply of clean water, economic growth – and the jobs that it creates – are simply impossible.
The global demand for water is projected to increase 55 percent by 2050. According to the OECD, manufacturing-related demand for water will increase by 400 percent from 2000 to 2050 – more than any other sector. Manufacturing represents hundreds of millions of jobs around the world. Without a reliable supply of clean water, these jobs simply would not exist. And if we cannot meet the increasing demand for clean water through 2050, that failure would mean that millions more jobs that could have been created will never come into existence.
At LANXESS, we make products that help make water available for use in people’s homes, in businesses, in agriculture. We enable innovative recycling methods in the service of sustainable water management. And we are pleased to support the United Nations in its efforts to promote a better understanding of the vital role that clean water plays in providing people with better jobs, better economic opportunities and better lives.
Dr. Rainier van Roessel, Board of Management