Report3 January 2017Updated about 8 months ago

Less is more: Circular economy solutions to water shortages

Desalination projects come with high social and environmental costs. The circular economy aims to reduce, re-use and retain water, providing a promising alternative capable of reducing water shortages

Executive summary

The circular economy could potentially save 412 billion m3 of water which is equivalent to 11% of annual global water demand, or almost the entire water consumption in the US. It also presents a viable alternative to current desalination projects that come with high environmental and social costs. 

This report considers the ‘take, make and waste’ approach to water use and seeks ways in which it could be turned into a circular ‘reduce, re-use and retention’ approach. 

First, we define circular economy water measures and those that are not so circular yet. 

Then, we present the potential of the circular economy to reduce water shortages in the six focus regions of this report.

Finally, we conclude and highlight some of the pitfalls of the circular economy in addressing water shortages. 

Lastly, the appendices provide information on the research method as well as more background information on the water systems utilised in the six regions covered by this report, namely: California, Ghana, Bangladesh, Northern India, The Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates.