Water is a priceless asset but the way we treat it today is unsustainable, writes Michael O’Donohoe.

As soon as it enters cities, we try to get rid of it. We should treat water as a precious asset rather than a disposable commodity. We must reuse it where there is too little, filter it where it is too polluted, and return it to the ground when groundwater supplies are depleted.

Circular mentality

This would close the water loop and stop shifting the problem from one upstream end to the other downstream end. A circular mentality must undergird every urban design step we take. We must make every drop count.

There is so much happening around the globe and in Ireland that can bring that about.

A number of global actions in recent months may shape how we view water in the coming years.

Wavin city garden: bird's eye view

Last November President Biden announced a $111bn investment in water infrastructure in the United States  A month later the iconic Wall Street gong sounded as water became a future, an opportunity to invest money in. 

Globally our water supply is running low and where there is limited availability and a high demand, don’t be surprised if in the near future a good rain shower makes the stock market spike.

In 10 years’ time, 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities. The problem that  cities face is their lack of uncemented soil to soak up the heavy rainfall caused by climate change. The pressure wastewater puts on infrastructure is increasingly high and so is the damage, the cost is immense.

One of the key threats posed by climate change to urban areas is water availability. This may seem strange when so much of the world has been experiencing heavy rainfall and flooding.


Just now it is Australia which is experiencing strong floods with many communities facing evacuation. A few months ago we had flash flooding in a number of Irish cities and last summer it was the turn of China, Germany and parts of the United States.

A destabilised climate will make water supplies more volatile and unpredictable, and the way we currently think of water only exacerbates this threat. We treat water linearly - source to use to disposal - instead of circularly, and this presents a tremendous opportunity to future-proof cities and make them more liveable for centuries to come.

Risk mitigation and resilience in the urban building sector can be achieved through innovative smart and integrated blue-green infrastructure – inclusive water management in particular. We must change the way we use water as part of broader climate adaptation efforts. It's not just about using less water, discharging more water faster, or building bigger reservoirs. It's about using water at the right time and in the right place.

By making use of every drop as frequently, efficiently, and naturally as possible, we both mitigate climate change and adapt to it.


How can we fulfil this vision? The key word is connection. We must connect systems often viewed as independent – like wastewater, rainwater, and tap water systems – to create circular and controlled water cycles around buildings, neighbourhoods, and  cities. Then, we should apply this concept of connection to different disciplines, partners, technologies, designs, and solutions to collectively achieve the most adaptive and inclusive infrastructure.

Our future generations are facing a 40% shortfall between their water supply and demand – making it unacceptable that existing water is leaking away or being contaminated by ageing pipes. 

At Wavin, we believe that water infrastructures can be fixed without extensive city interruptions and that we need to enable better solutions for rainwater reuse to not exhaust our freshwater resources. Solutions lie in digitalisation and flexible, secure piping with ultimate durability delivering what it’s supposed to – safe, clean water to communities.

It's inconvenient and expensive to dig up a city. We need to use new thinking and new technologies to replace our ageing infrastructure in a way that is:

  • Cost-efficient (no-dig solutions)
  • Safe (avoiding legionella in new installations)
  • Smart (utilising technology for monitoring and predictive maintenance to improve drinking water quality)
  • Lasting (collecting and reusing rainwater to avoid depleting fresh water supplies)

Wavin offers solutions that can help implement this vision. Our AquaCell technology – made from 100% recyclable plastic – routes water in a more weather-independent and controlled manner, insulating urban areas from volatile weather patterns.

Our intelligent StormHarvester technology selectively returns water to groundwater, even in poorly permeable soils. When rain is forecast, StormHarvester’s predictive technology adjusts the tank’s water level to ensure capacity for rainwater retention. Instead of letting rainwater go to waste, StormHarvester helps close the water loop by predicting water availability and adjusting accordingly.

By developing new standards and solutions, connecting with engineers and other partners, while driving the global discourse on the future of cities, Wavin is supporting climate-resilient cities that can keep being liveable and lovable.

For further information click here.

Author: Michael O’Donohoe is country director for Wavin Ireland