Climate Week: Water Risks Are No Longer An Undercurrent

Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in a series of water events across NYC as part of Climate Week. These events were attended by industry leaders, utility managers, climate scientists, investors, start-up founders, academics and more, with the common goal of looking towards the future of water. For a global audience, the collective body of knowledge highlighted the most pertinent water challenges the world is facing – and will encounter in the future – while also promoting solutions to these problems, and assuming the mindset that no challenge is too big, given collective action and dedication.

Once the whirlwind week had concluded, here are some of the key takeaways I was left with:

  • Treatment capabilities are increasing – and indeed, scaling. 
    One of the three pillars of water-related challenges is quality, an issue that reduces the already small amount of usable water to an even tinier fraction. With clean-up efforts mandated, and financial penalties looming, discharge streams from agricultural run-off, mining tail ponds, beverage by-products, industrial operations and municipal sources are compounding problems. However, today's scientists and entrepreneurs are developing technology that can not only clean this wastewater to near-potable – if not fully potable – levels, but can generate power and other benefits at the same time. Moreover, these operations are increasingly scalable, meaning that their deployment and costs are manageable for expanding operations.

  • Detailed and accessible modelling creates level playing fields.  
    Advancements in modelling – whether of precipitation, snowpack or run-off, and whether river-specific or basin-wide – continue to expand in depth and granularity, producing ever more accurate and relevant outcomes. These initiatives have been funded by both the private and public sectors and highlight what cooperation can mean for the democratization of science. More important, however, are their availability and application. These models can help lenders identify at-risk industrial operations and push decision-makers to adopt more efficient practices. The models can assist municipalities and regulatory boards in understanding permitting limits and identifying instances of non-compliance. They can also aid with agricultural planning, with regard to precipitation and precision farming. As models proliferate, the barriers to leveraging them outside of academic circles decrease.

  • The finance is there: simply direct it. 
    Over the past few years, the carbon crisis has created a powerful movement focusing on carbon emissions and the measurement and reduction of these. However, this has tended to leave the water sector with a concomitant vacuum of funding. Fortunately, this is beginning to shift. Institutions as large as leading investment firms – right down to boutique capital operations – are finding that water is not only a pertinent threat, but that there are positive financial benefits to investing in the space.


As water underpins almost everything that humans do and use in our daily lives, there is no operation that is too far away from a direct or indirect risk whose root cause lies with water. A problem as monumental as water and its related challenges will require a diverse range of problem-solvers, each tackling their own personal challenges – and together, pushing the collective towards a water-secure future.

Nathan Goldstein

Nathan is a Senior Analyst in the Verdantix EHS practice out of the New York office. His current research agenda focusses on the intersection of Sustainability and ESG trends with the EHS operational sphere. Prior to joining Verdantix, Nathan worked at Bluefield Research where he gained experience in consulting and market research within the global water industry. Nathan holds a MSc in Water: Science and Governance from King’s College London.