Worldwide, too much and too little water demand for large investments. The public sector cannot handle these all by themselves. It is time for innovative business cases and alternative business models.

Global water challenges
Water, a friend and an enemy. By 2050, the population of Earth is likely to reach nine billion – with increasing living standards. Less poverty and longer, healthier lives: a positive development. Yet the world’s growing prosperity will also put stresses on water, energy and food supplies - all of which are closely intertwined. By 2030 the world’s demand for water will rise by 30%, energy by 40% and food by 50%. Beside this shortage of water, a water surplus can be dangerous – when causing floods. These two factors make sustainable and progressive water management vital. International and national.

Challenges in The Netherlands
The Netherlands has a strong tradition in water. It has a wealth of experience and knowledge. Other countries look to the Netherlands and want to learn from its expertise. Although it’s an excellent starting point, The Netherlands also faces water investment challenges. Financial resources are under great stress and roles, responsibilities and instruments are changing. So who is doing what? And where is the money going to come from? There will be less taxpayers’ money, that much is clear, but the people of the Netherlands will still have to be protected from the sea. How do we guarantee that they will have dry feet a hundred years from now?

Rebels view of the water sector is unconventional: we like to swim against the current. Where traditionally actions are based on policy or engineering, we regard the financial aspects of solutions. A new insight, especially for the public side. Our experience in other sectors and disciplines – Rebels are not just economists but administrative and legal experts as well – helps a great deal. The water sector has been happy to work with Rebel on a variety of projects, both at home and abroad. In Gambia we put together a business plan for water distribution. In Vietnam we advised on the sustainable development and preservation of the Mekong Delta.

Finding partners and taking on risk
Changing times are creating a new role for the state as well. It needs to confront the market boldly and confidently. Public authorities and private companies will have to find each other and shoulder the risks together. The water sector can only benefit from such new partnerships. And this will ensure we won’t be getting our feet wet at the merest breeze.