If you were asked to name the most pressing challenges facing cities in the developing world, chances are many of you would include access to clean water. What if I told you that there are solutions available to help the world's cities provide access to clean water to millions more people simply by improving their existing infrastructure and maximising the efficiency of their water supply systems?
This is why I am in New York City this week for the Clinton Global Initiative's Annual Meeting. As Chairman & CEO of Arison Investments, that incorporates Miya, the global water solutions company established by Shari Arison, owner of Arison Group, I am proud we are a founding partner in a commitment to help cities around the world save both precious natural and financial resources at the same time.
The need for action is immediate. There are currently 1.4 billion people throughout the world without access to clean, safe water. And as rapid urbanisation continues in the developing world, cities need to make use of every available tool to meet their population's needs. However, over one-third of the world's water supply (a figure which rises to up to 80% in some developing cities) leaks away from municipal distribution systems before reaching consumers - at a cost of $18 billion a year. Even saving just half of the non-revenue water (NRW) would provide water for an additional 130 million people. Meanwhile, only 10% of visible leaks reach the surface.
Through Miya, which was set up in 2007 to help cities maximise the efficiency of their water systems, our Clinton Global Initiative commitment establishes a public-private funding vehicle for these projects. We are actively seeking partnerships with other funding organisations that would help finance around eight medium-to-large water efficiency projects around the world. We've estimated that an average project benefits from water savings of approximately 450 million cubic metres per project over a 20-year period.
Miya has already helped many municipalities save water while cutting costs - from the Philippines, where Miya helped Manila's Maynilad maximise efficiency to gain 40 billion gallons per year and deliver water to an additional 2 million people, to Brazil, where a low-income area of the city of Itapeví achieved a 50% improvement in water efficiency in a year, to South Africa, where the Sebokeng/Evaton area outside of Johannesburg has saved 11 billion gallons of water and over $20 million over just a 5 years period.
The combined savings in both water and money is clearly attractive for governments, but getting funding for these projects has often been a challenge. Because urban water efficiency is not a tangible public asset like a school or a road, investors are often reluctant to be active in this area. With the new funding body, we are hoping to change all that and ignite the conversation on water efficiency to leverage the expertise of the public and private sectors in achieving real water efficiency savings.
We hope that through this global dialogue on water efficiency, all involved partners can begin developing comprehensive urban water efficiency solutions all over the world by making financing available and driving down the cost of tackling this critical issue.