There are several challenges and hurdles, but all can be boiled down to lack of knowledge, money, and action. The sad truth is that researchers, practitioners, and environmentalist have the knowledge, and governments, businesses, and certain individuals have the money, but too often the action is missing.
Knowledge Transfer: In a 2010 UK national Audit Office survey, 85% of the farmers claimed they were unaware that agriculture is a major contributor to water pollution. With agriculture using the largest shares of freshwater (globally 69%, according to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization), farmers must be educated on their impact, best practices, and made aware of all opportunities available that can help mitigate their pollution.
Money: Most infrastructure that stands was designed without environmental considerations, but rather to flush water as quickly and efficiently as possible to nearby rivers and streams. New research and methods offer opportunities to incorporate permeable surfaces, rain gardens, and other filtration methods to reduce non-point pollution as well as recharge natural ground water. The challenges lie in the adoption rate of these technologies and replacing old or polluting systems.
Action: Once educated, incentives need to be clear to make people act. While the environmental gains are encouraging, the projects are expensive and financial incentives or penalties are the best motivators because the biggest sources from pollution are linked to human activities that are directly and indirectly related to businesses and the lifeblood of business is money.
It is estimated that the world’s population will grow from 7 to 9 billion by the year 2050. If water consumption remains at current rates, this new population will require 50% more water. This growing population will also require more food and energy. With agriculture currently consuming 69% of the global water, the added stress on the environment and resources will be tremendous. Given that people, energy, and agriculture are some of the largest contributors to water pollution, the future faces many challenges to ensure that everyone has access to healthy water, food, and energy. Next, layer in the fact that climate change is compounding the above situation, and the challenges are immense. These are the reasons that we need innovation and action to solve the problems of today and prepare for our future.