Sustainable Innovation for Business and the Planet

By Alexandre
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The world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion people in 2050. There are already 7.3 billion of us today. This population is also becoming more and more urbanized.

With an increasing population comes ever greater demand for the planet’s finite resources, such as minerals, water, agriculture, forestry, and oil and gas. Along with growing appetite for fuel, food, and inputs into the products we depend on in our daily lives, there is of course also a price to pay – the impact on the environment.

How can we best manage the limited resources we have while ensuring we are being respectful of the most precious thing we have – the home all 7.3 billion of us share? Will increased competition lead to clashes over water resources, or can we find a way to manage them more effectively? Is it inevitable that we turn to outer space to find minerals when we have exhausted them here? Some predictions have commodities such as copper, vital in many consumer goods, expected to be in production decline in less than 20 years.

At the same time questions are being asked the future of Natural Resources and humanity globally, communities are demanding greater social responsibility from the enterprises that operate projects locally. Communities are seeking better environmental management and more insight into how a project will benefit the local citizens over the course of its life.

Businesses are asking the questions about how they can respond to increasing social license obligations and maintain profitability at a time when commodity prices are variable and unpredictable.

Through the world of 3DEXPERIENCE, it is possible to bring all stakeholders together in the virtual world. With this, natural resources projects and their impact on the environment and communities can be simulated and communicated clearly.

The virtual world of collaboration and visualization will bring with it social innovation, uncovering new ways of managing natural resources, improving the efficiency of how they are recovered. This will result in a win-win for people and business as fuel consumption and emissions are lowered, decreasing the impact on the environment and lowering operating costs.

In parts of the world where water is scarce, it would be possible to bring together scientists from anywhere in the world, along with planners, and government officials in the virtual world to find ways of using a limited water supply more efficiently. They could test ideas such as the utilization of alternative types of crops, which were dependent on less water.

The time to start thinking differently about how we manage natural resources is now, not 2050. Populations are growing rapidly, putting pressure on natural resources in even the richest countries. The good news is, many are starting to have conversations now.

Follow Dassault Systèmes Natural Resources Industry on Twitter: @3DSNR

On the web: 3DS.com/natural-resources/

Water, Water, Leaking Everywhere

By Catherine
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Written by Catherine Bolgar

courtesy: iStock

A quarter or more of the world’s expensively treated drinking water never reaches a faucet as a result of aging, leaky infrastructure. Around 14% of treated water in the U.S. is lost, with some cities losing as much as 60%. Water leaks cost Europe around €80 billion a yearCroatia, for example, wastes almost 40% of its water.

Fritz Barth, vice chairman of the European Water Partnership (EWP), notes: “We have a lot of old infrastructure with a lot of leakage. Clean drinking water is prepared, and then a lot of it just leaks into the ground. It’s a big waste of energy, effort and water.”

Water companies do respond when a water main breaks (which occurs on average 850 times a day in North America). But less dramatic leaks are not fixed, either because they go undetected or because of the high repair cost.

Water is too cheap,” Mr. Barth says. “The price often covers only the service of delivery to the home. It doesn’t cover the replacement of old infrastructure. Utilities can’t put aside money for reinvestment.”

The problem is not just with our drinking water. Sewage pipes are also aging and leaking. “If you have leaking wastewater pipes and leaking drinking-water pipes, it’s even worse,” Mr. Barth says. “The drinking-water pipes can suck in the wastewater.”

courtesy: iStockMoreover, some 80% of the world’s wastewater flows untreated into rivers, lakes and oceans. The difficulties are compounded as developing-world cities expand faster than they can install infrastructure.

More effective recycling would help. Densely populated Singapore, which imports one-third of its water from neighboring Malaysia, operates a water-recycling program called NEWater. Recycled water now meets 30% of the country’s water demand—particularly from its semiconductor plants—and this figure is expected to increase to 55% by 2060. NEWater also contributes to reservoirs during dry periods, where the water is further treated to become drinkable.

Many people may recoil from the idea of “toilet-to-tap” water recycling, but they are already doing it, Mr. Barth points out. Upstream cities dump treated wastewater into rivers that supply drinking water to utilities downstream. Recycling could happen in individual buildings. Rather than pumping sewage and drinking water to and from centralized treatment plants, new technology allows for decentralized water treatment.

A recycling system the size of a household washing machine can also treat water used in apartments or office buildings. The system removes the “raw materials” and uses the remaining gray water to irrigate gardens or, more importantly, flush toilets—which account for 27% of total indoor water use in the U.S.

However, many municipalities still prohibit the use of gray water, including harvested rainwater, even for toilet flushing or irrigation. “Wastewater and drinking-water legislation is quite old,” Mr. Barth says, and needs to be updated in light of new technology and society’s needs.

courtesy: iStockManufacturers have improved indoor technology since “low-flow” showerheads and toilets were introduced. Producers are now focusing on getting the same or better results with less water. For example, by infusing air between water droplets, a shower can be just as forceful with less water, says Barbara C. Higgens, chief executive officer of Plumbing Manufacturers International.

WaterSense toilets, showerheads and faucets, developed since 2006, could save drought-stricken Californians 360 million gallons of water a day, Ms. Higgens says.

People will stand in line for the latest phone, but when it comes to water-efficient technology most are using toilets, showers and faucets made more than 20 years ago.”

Reducing water flow rates can, however, have unintended consequences. In Germany, for example, drastically lower water usage has forced some municipalities to flush their sewer pipes. One solution might be to replace leaky, sometimes 100-year-old, systems with new, smaller pipes. As EWP’s Mr. Barth points out, one wouldn’t even need to dig trenches: smaller pipes could be threaded through the old ones, while sensors could be installed to detect leaks and send alerts.

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

 

Photos courtesy of iStock

Turning Icebergs into Drinking Water?

By Cedric
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This post was published in honor of Blog Action Day 2010 and its theme: water.

It’s a common mistake to confuse ice fields, which are composed of frozen seawater and populated with polar bears, with icebergs, our floating mountains composed of frozen drinking water.

And did you know that, each year, the equivalent of the world’s supply in drinking water melts away into the ocean?

Why should just sit by and let this happen?  Why not use icebergs as an alternative source for drinking water?

This is French Arts & Métiers Engineer Georges Mougin’s dream since 40 years!

At first this idea may seem too outlandish, but perhaps Mougin is a visionary?  Today while the most pessimist prospectors predict a worldwide conflict based on ‘blue gold’ in 2050, Dassault Systèmes has decided to help Mougin reexamine his project with the help of 21st Century technology.

And what if 3D scientific simulation and virtual worlds can give life to an idea that died down last century? Perhaps this was due to technology-linked obstacles and limited knowledge of our oceans and weather.  Perhaps Mougin was ahead of his times . . .

A documentary under the direction of Jean-Michel Corillion is being made to tell this story.  It’s called Ice Dream and in a few months will be broadcast in various countries.  We’ll keep you posted as the details unfold.  But for now, enjoy the sneak preview below!

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Best,

Cédric

Cédric Simard is Dassault Systèmes Project Director for Ice Dream

P.S. For more information about our water challenges, watch this video made especially for Blog Action Day 2010.