Water, such an everyday but precious resource, is under threat. Our overconsumption and wastage of the planet’s fresh water has created a situation where many are without clean water and adequate sanitation, and a future where “Day Zero” (when fresh water runs dry) is a real possibility in many cities.
Urbanization is on the rise: it’s projected that 60 percent of us will live in cities by 2030, which means urban areas will be under even more pressure at a time when flooding is a growing concern, and while fires and other disasters are leading to population migration. What this means is that we need sustainable and systematic innovation to stop our cities from running dry.
“Water is present in everything we do. It’s a crucial system in our cities and a key enabler of economic activity,” says Braulio Eduardo Morera, Director of 50L Home Coalition. “According to the World Resources Institute, water stress levels will increase in places as diverse as Australia, China, Spain, Texas, Mexico, and Chile. In this context, supporting water conservation is also an opportunity to identify and respond creatively to the future needs of our clients and consumers.”
What Is a 50L Home?
50L Home is a global action-oriented program that brings together global multinationals companies, civic institutions, and industry leaders “to create sustainable solutions that will solve the urban water crisis and create financially viable opportunities for our communities.”
About ten percent of the world’s fresh water is used in homes, so the area of domestic water consumption is where many society-level solutions can have a massive impact on our finite resources. The 50L Home Coalition’s goal is to create a world where 50 liters of water is enough for each person each day, reducing the stress on urban water supplies and avoiding reaching Day Zero.
The coalition does this through the key focus areas of innovation, education, policy change, and implementation, with partners like Kohler Co., the World Economic Forum, IKEA, and Procter & Gamble (P&G). “Because of climate change, access to water resources will be heavily restricted in many cities globally,” Morera explains. “Our partners explore both how to use resources more efficiently and responsibly themselves and how to respond to the needs of the increasing majority of people who are willing to use resources responsibly without affecting their quality of life.”
Ratish Namboothiry, Kohler’s Director of Innovation for Good and Sustainability, echoes this idea. “It’s important that we help people reimagine their relationship with water in a way that makes it feel like living off of 50 liters of water a day is not a sacrifice,” he notes. “This requires ongoing innovation to create more water-efficient products that don’t compromise on the design, quality, or the customer experience people have come to expect.”
How Does the 50L Home Coalition Work?
50L Home’s partners share experience and learnings, collaborate on challenges, and identify the right pilot projects to help solve a global problem. It’s an inspiring example of how international corporations can work together for a common good.
“Our coalition is also committed to supporting our members by sharing our evidence-based learnings through educational programs on water and energy efficiency as well as policy innovation engagements that support city governments and civil society in multiple geographies,” says Morera.
What Are 50L Home’s Partners Doing to Help?
For brands that work with water in the home, there’s a huge opportunity to achieve more with less by using strategic thinking, forward-thinking design, and engineering.
“Solving this global challenge requires changing perceptions and increased collaboration across the entire ecosystem of partners,” says Namboothiry. “Consideration for water usage can’t be an afterthought in the planning process, but should be integrated into how we approach everything, from new builds and the products we select to how living and working spaces are designed.”
For Kohler, the bathroom is a natural place to innovate. Most of a household’s daily water usage happens in the bathroom, so both are looking at what can be done to reduce this. “It’s already possible to greatly reduce water consumption just by using readily available products like KOHLER® WaterSense®-labeled toilets, showerheads, and faucets,” Namboothiry says.
IKEA Development Leader Tobias Svanberg says that IKEA is committed to becoming water positive by 2030. “We’re also on our way to developing a water-positive home offering,” he says. “Our ambition is to create a city lab within Europe and make 50 liters feel like 500 liters.”
Along with the bathroom, IKEA is also focusing on laundry, drinking water, and cooking. “In terms of product development, we’ve decided to focus on creating new solutions for water treatment and filtration, reducing flows of all water outlets, recovering water and energy, reusing, and making sure water availability fits the purpose in the home,” Svanberg explains.
By bringing these brands and minds together on one project with a measurable and urgent goal, the coalition champions innovation, while the sharing of best practices makes the process more efficient. Creating easy and affordable ways for consumers to do more with less requires systems thinking, education, and intelligent design—everything that the 50L Home Coalition partners excel at.