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Forum warns businesses to prepare for future water crisis

There will certainly be a water crisis in the present century, with its effects already being felt in Hungary, and it will also affect companies, according to an address to the Business Breakfast and Action 2020 Forum of the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Hungary (BCSDH).

The address was delivered by Prof. András Szöllősi-Nagy, deputy chairman of the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCOʼs International Hydrological Program and doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The breakfast and subsequent workshop of the BCSDH, an organization incorporating 87 member firms which produce 30% of Hungarian GDP, focused on water as its main topic.

"Despite previous efforts, Earthʼs natural capital continues to decline at a very fast pace," noted Gábor Bartus, secretary general of the National Council for Sustainable Development (NFFT), in his introductory address. "Todayʼs poor sustainability performance means tomorrowʼs weaker socioeconomic wellbeing. Fortunately for humanity, remedial technologies, patterns, institutions and values have been identified and are available. These can prevent the destruction of natural resources, or at least substantially slow down the process."

According to forecasts from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), global water use will increase by 55% by 2050. Most of the growth will be a result of an increase in the demand for water from manufacturing, the energy sector, and households.

"Most of the effects of climate change will become visible through changes in water, thus all businesses must prepare to use water more efficiently," explained Szöllősi-Nagy. "Climate change and water-related problems should not be approached from an engineering perspective only, as water use has important economic, sociological and political implications as well. In the next 10 years, the biggest risk factor will be ignoring water-related problems, extreme weather, climate change, and the social consequences of these phenomena. Only 0.007% of Earth’s water resources are available for direct human consumption. We are on the verge of a water crisis."

"Although Hungary is for now in a favorable position from the perspective of water supply, it is crucial that we sustain this beneficial situation in the long term," pointed out BCSDH President Attila Chikán. "The business sector has a role to play in achieving this. CEOs have the primary responsibility of recognizing the importance of adaptation and starting the process of adapting."

The issue of increasing water efficiency partly involves market competition as well, a fact which cannot be separated from the issue of security of supply, stressed Chikán.

"Additionally, ensuring a supply of suitable quality water will also prove to be increasingly challenging for companies. This year, through our Action 2020 program, we aim to support the efforts of companies in these areas," he explained.

The BCSDHʼs business breakfast was followed by the Action 2020 Forum, aimed at launching and supporting effective teamwork and joined-up thinking in the business sector while providing a real impact. So far, some 59 companies have joined the program.

The Action 2020 programʼs main objective is to support climate adaptation in the water sector so that water is available to everyone in the long term, considering available water resources, according to a BCSDH press release.

"In order for water to be available to users in the right quality and quantity, Action 2020 Hungary aims to encourage domestic businesses to set ambitious yet realistic goals and to identify and disseminate solutions that contribute to their realization," explained Károly Kovács, managing director of environmental services and advisory firm BDL Kft., and head of the BCSDH Action 2020 Water Working Group. "During the Forum’s work, we try to identify the most important challenges and opportunities in the former areas, as well as pre-existing business solutions that can bring about immediate, short or medium-term results," he added.