Water supply of the future: when drinking water becomes a human right

innovation | Sustainability and climate protection | trends of technology | Urbanization | Worth knowing | How will our water supply develop in the future? What are the driving trends of these developments? And which technologies could play a vital role in this? To answer these questions, our foresight experts look into an alternative future. In our second scenario, we tell you the story of a possible society where no one has to suffer thirst anymore – thanks to centrally organized water solidarity.

Joseph and Melina have just returned from cycling training in the Northern Suburbs of their native Cape Town. In the heat of the South African metropolis, the two have been training together for the “Cape Town Cycle Tour” for several weeks now. The world-famous cycle race is still a constant in international sports events in 2033. “I’m almost dying of thirst,” moans Melina. “Would you like me to fill your water bottle again, Melina?” Joseph asks.

A secure global water supply

Joseph and Melina can rely on their water supply. Nevertheless, it has not been like this ever since. As little as ten years ago, water had been an extremely rare commodity, with long queues that were forming in front of the few exchange points in the cities and on the countryside. There was a good reason for this as there even had been wars over the precious resource – a result of the climate change. After the end of the water wars, the United Nations declared the supply of drinking water a human right.

Once the earth's fossil resources had been exhausted, the mighty oil tankers were ready for scrapping. But the water supply network of World Water Inc. gave the ships a completely new purpose.Once the earth’s fossil resources had been exhausted, the mighty oil tankers were ready for scrapping. But the water supply network of World Water Inc. gave the ships a completely new purpose.

At a ceremonial general assembly in Nairobi, the UN passed a resolution on a completely new system for water supplies. “We will not let anybody die of thirst again!”, UN Secretary-General Valentina Romanov said, to tumultuous applause from the delegates.

Pipelines and water tanker – centrally organized

From 2028, a central New UNO agency, known colloquially as World Water Inc., was responsible for bringing clean water to everybody. To do this, a gigantic investment program was agreed – primarily to build a worldwide network of pipelines that could transport the precious liquid to regions that had previously been dry – combined with a fleet of water transportation ships to make sure nobody would have to suffer from thirst again. Conveniently, the age of fossil fuels had come to an end shortly before, and many oil tankers were waiting for a new role.

One part of World Water Inc's gigantic water supply network is a global pipeline system – one of the largest infrastructure projects in history.One part of World Water Inc’s gigantic water supply network is a global pipeline system – one of the largest infrastructure projects in history.

Water solidarity creates peace and prosperity

Today, the tankers and pipelines ensure that all people get water of the best quality at affordable prices, subsidized by compensation payments from countries that are in a climatically more favorable location. “Solidarity creates peace and prosperity – competition creates suffering and conflict,” was the New UNO’s slogan. Joseph and Melina in Cape Town are also benefiting from this.

However, it is not only as private consumers that the two are reliant on a secure water supply. They also benefit from World Water Inc. as the owners of a large vegetable farm outside Cape Town. Although their huge greenhouses with their hydrocultures and genetically optimized plants are geared to maximum efficiency, even the most modern recycling system loses a certain proportion of water in the African heat.

In 2030, the new greenhouse class "Humid Pro" makes it possible to cultivate genetically optimized hydroponics even in desert areas.In 2030, the new greenhouse class “Humid Pro” makes it possible to cultivate genetically optimized hydroponics even in desert areas.

Cloud factories for most accurate rainfall

For this reason, the two agricultural entrepreneurs have been taking part for a year in an ambitious New UN project that aims to raise the global water supply to a completely new level. The press has dubbed this unique project “The Cloud Factory.”

The idea behind it is this: in rainy regions close to the equator, factories create tailor-made clouds, send them up into the atmosphere and – assuming the wind is in the right direction – dispatch them on their way to South Africa, where they can ensure rain with pinpoint precision. “When can we expect the cloud?” Melinda asks project leader Wu Xi during a telephone conference. “According to the weather forecast, we can start tomorrow, and it ought to reach you in the late afternoon the day after tomorrow,” he replies.

In 2029, the UN launched "Cloud Factory". The aim of the mega project? Creating artificial clouds that specifically rain over the earth's most arid regions.In 2029, the UN launched “Cloud Factory”. The aim of the mega project? Creating artificial clouds that specifically rain over the earth’s most arid regions.

A look into the future of our water supply

People in the world Joseph and Melina live well. Their society is less market-driven – instead, the state here performs many central tasks. The experts of thyssenkrupp has described the scenario as “Sustainable Flat Rate”.

Of course, the world after 2030 may look very different than it does in this story, which our futurologists developed as part of the foresight work on water management. As innovation manager, physicist Dr. Andreas Meschede coordinates the foresight process at thyssenkrupp. Here international experts design possible scenarios for the future, such as the development of mobility, the cities of tomorrow or the changing world of employment. The Group is already preparing today for possible developments in 2030 and beyond.

Andreas Meschede purses a clear vision: to anticipate our future – and to sharpen the understanding of his colleagues for constant change.
Andreas Meschede purses a clear vision: to anticipate our future – and to sharpen the understanding of his colleagues for constant change.
Andreas Meschede invites colleagues from all departments to join him in thyssenkrupp's foresight work. The only prerequisites: a personal opinion and a certain technical expertise regarding the topic.
Andreas Meschede invites colleagues from all departments to join him in thyssenkrupp's foresight work. The only prerequisites: a personal opinion and a certain technical expertise regarding the topic.

Foresight project: smart heads collaborate for a better future

Since 2015, thyssenkrupp is preparing foresight scenarios for possible developments in 2030 and beyond

Andreas Meschede explains that when putting together the Foresight team, it’s all about diversity in thinking: “For each scenario, we bring about 25 to 30 people together who have both an opinion on the topic and a certain technical expertise. Our goal: a good mix of views, expertise and disciplines.”

Foresight: thinking ahead the possibilities of the future

Even if stories like the one of Joseph and Maria are quite imaginable, the team of experts around the 41-year-old innovation manager is not interested in creating realistic scenarios. “We don’t want to predict the future – we want to show what’s possible. And we want to consciously allow thoughts that may not be quite clear, logical or probable at first, but are still possible” says Andreas Meschede. “It’s about thinking about alternative futures and about sharpening the senses for a world of change. This way, we are prepared for these changes. This approach also includes breaking out of classic engineering thinking.”

To question the way of thinking in the team, Andreas Meschede does not hesitate to irritate, inspire and use playful means such as role play.
To question the way of thinking in the team, Andreas Meschede does not hesitate to irritate, inspire and use playful means such as role play.
The Foresight work is not just about theory but also about visualizing the imagined future scenarios, developing the characters of the story and visualizing social connections.
The Foresight work is not just about theory but also about visualizing the imagined future scenarios, developing the characters of the story and visualizing social connections.
The means are the aim: discussing, taking a step back, developing ideas together and questioning what you have learned – these are the primary findings of the Foresight project.
The means are the aim: discussing, taking a step back, developing ideas together and questioning what you have learned – these are the primary findings of the Foresight project.

Thinking about our future – playfully and without taboos

Throughout the project, the team tries to avoid evaluating the designed scenarios and instead to look at the world neutrally at first. While there are certain rules, there are no prohibitions on thinking – every thought is allowed. To challenge his colleagues’ way of thinking and immerse themselves in a world beyond numbers, data and facts, Andreas Meschede uses inspiration and irritation, among other things.

And so, it’s the experience gained by the participants that is a vital goal of the foresight project, as Andreas Meschede explains: “Just as important as the scenarios are the insights that the colleagues take with them during the foresight work – be it in terms of mindset, future work, networking within the Group or interdisciplinary cooperation. This really helps a company like thyssenkrupp in developing new solutions that add value for our future.”

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