In the context of International Day for Biological Diversity, held on 22 May, it is important to recall that biodiversity is the basis of our way of life. Biodiversity provides us with health, water, food, fuel and the vital resources on which our existence depends, as indicated in the Convention on Biological Diversity.
At some point of their value chain, most companies depend directly or indirectly on ecosystems and the services that they provide. This relationship is much closer in water cycle management companies.
A study undertaken in North America indicated that for every 10% increase in forest coverage in a water catchment area, the water treatment costs went down by approximately 20%. This happens because forest coverage increases the security of supply and, moreover, helps to reduce the contaminants in the water.
The rate of biodiversity loss worldwide is currently one thousand times greater than the natural rate and is not slowing down. This represents an accelerated degradation of the services which are provided by ecosystems and which guarantee our well-being.
Without detailing the main causes of biodiversity loss, it is worth recalling that it is a consequence of the majority of current environmental problems and that therefore it is important to progress toward sustainable development, a development model capable of meeting current needs without compromising the resources and possibilities of future generations.
In the last few decades, governments and the international community have been developing policies to stop the threat represented by biodiversity loss for the planet. These international agreements already identify companies as an actor with an important role to play in this respect.
Until now, in the company we have devoted most of our efforts to the sustainable management of resources, waste, emissions and energy. The question is: what should we do from the business sphere to incorporate the conservation of biological diversity in the environment of the facilities operated? It is clear that this is not an easy task, and there is no universal formula. In SUEZ Water Spain, among other initiatives, we have prepared an Operational Guide for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Complete Water Cycle facilities which helps us to carry out this integration. The objective is for the technical teams to become familiar, for example, with the treatment of endangered species and with priority habitats declared of interest by the European Union.
Even so, we must go even further. It is not just necessary to incorporate biodiversity into the current management of the service. In the future, it is possible that the administration will develop a recovery plan which considers both the wastewater treatment infrastructures necessary (WWTPs), and the environmental restoration of stretches of rivers which promote the self-purification effect of riverside vegetation. Or that the management of catchments also considers forest management agreements. It is a question of integrating management of grey (conventional) infrastructure with green infrastructure.
I defend the need to move toward a water cycle management model in which not only the infrastructures are managed, but also the infrastructure and its natural environment of influence are managed jointly, in order to guarantee and promote the services that the ecosystems provide to the Water Cycle.