Sustainable Future

The world is 'way behind' on investments into water and sanitation systems, CEO says

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Key Points
  • The world has a long way to go in finding solutions to water shortages, according to John Streur of Calvert Research and Management, an investment management company.
  • "We're way behind in terms of the amount of investment we need to bring our industrial water systems, our (agricultural) systems and our residential systems up to where they need to be," Streur said.
  • TSMC is considered a leader in water management, Streur said, pointing out that at the company's best facility, water is circulated seven times before being disposed.
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'A very long road' lies ahead in solving the world's water challenges, CEO says

The world is a long way from finding solutions to water shortages, according to an investment management company that focuses on sustainability.

"We're way behind in terms of the amount of investment we need to bring our industrial water systems, our (agricultural) systems and our residential systems up to where they need to be," said John Streur, chief executive officer of Calvert Research and Management.

Most CEOs of water-reliant companies will admit that the resource is "very underpriced," he said.

In an aerial view, low water levels are visible at Lake Oroville on June 01, 2021 in Oroville, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

"As a result of that, the amount of effort that we've put into creating a safe and secure source of water is behind where we are in terms of our industrial development," he told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" on Tuesday.

Streur also pointed to a "significant health challenge" for people who don't have a steady supply of safe water.

In many cases, we haven't even built the necessary water infrastructure to provide access to clean drinking water and sanitation systems for population centers.
John Streur
Calvert Research and Management CEO

According to a 2021 report by Unicef, 1.42 billion people live in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability.

"In many cases, we haven't even built the necessary water infrastructure to provide access to clean drinking water and sanitation systems for population centers," Streur said.

He discussed ways that investors can invest in the water segment, including putting money into companies that develop filtration technology, or firms that use a lot of water and are efficient in conservation efforts.

Calvert Research and Management owns shares in Taiwanese chip foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) because it uses water efficiently, he added.

TSMC is considered a leader in water management, Streur said, pointing out that at the company's best facility, water is circulated seven times before being disposed.

"We and the industry are very tuned into the fact that water is a critical input, (and) it's often in shorter supply than they would like," Streur said. Taiwan is battling its worst drought in more than 50 years.

Semiconductor manufacturing plants require huge amounts of water every day, but have become more efficient in their use of the resource, he said.