Medilink marks UN World Water Day 2017
The United Nation’s World Water Day 2017, held on 22 March, is of particular poignancy and relevance to Medilink. We serve clients operating in some of the world’s most remote and harshest regions, many of which are in deserts or in regions subject to desertification.
UN World Water Day emphasises the responsibilities that all of us associated with the extraction industries face in adhering to sustainable water management. It also presents us with an opportunity to share insights on how Medilink focuses on the health, safety and welfare of the local communities who call these remote areas home.
About UN World Water Day
UN World Water Day, which started in 1993, is the initiative of UN-Water, a United Nations inter-agency whose role is to coordinate mechanisms for freshwater-related issues. Its remit includes looking at water’s supply and sanitation as well as water management in disasters, emergencies and other extreme events that can impact human health, safety and security.
Each year, the designated day focuses attention on a specific aspect of freshwater resource management; the 2017 theme is ‘Wastewater’ which is of particular relevance to the oil and gas extraction industries.
The Water-Energy Relationship
The fossil fuel and natural gas extraction industries have traditionally been heavy users of locally-sourced water supplies. In fact, availability of water is key not only to determining optimal extraction sites but also the economics of extraction. Geology, geography and financial factors all come into play. Water’s availability at the right price of supply, purification and recycling is paramount in the choice extraction technology deployed and the viability of any proposed site.
Water and energy also have a symbiotic relationship; they are both heavy users of each other. The interplay between water and energy usage in the extraction industries is discussed in the Energy Technology Innovation Policy Paper (2010-15) issued by the Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School.
It states: “The water industry is energy intensive, consuming electricity for desalination, pumping, and treatment of wastewater. The energy industry is water intensive […]; water is used for resource extraction (oil, gas, coal, biomass etc.), energy conversion (refining and processing), transportation and power generation”. The paper gives insights into the level of water usage required in various extraction technologies and regions, from shale gas fracking to crude oil extraction in desert areas.
However, while the oil and gas extraction sector is determined by a multinational industry providing for a global energy market at world prices, water, in contrast, is a local commodity, subject to depletion and degradation and at the mercy of local supply and demand. It needs mindful, sustainable management to ensure minimal detrimental impact on both the environment and local communities who rely on a stable supply of clean water for their welfare and livelihoods.
Our Role in Local Communities’ Health & Welfare
Medilink is at the frontline in assessing the impact of client operations on the health of both the local communities and employees at oil and gas extraction sites and at other heavy infrastructure project locations. Typically, we are called in to carry out a Health Impact Assessment at the outset of a project or mid-way through should the project change in scope.
Our health impact teams bring together public health specialists and epidemiologists whose role it is to analyse and assess the impact of the prospective project on the health of local communities and workers. Medilink provides indepth reports on the outcomes, giving detailed recommendations on how clients may reduce health risks as well as outlining options to reduce other negative impacts the proposed project might create.
The sustainable, reliable supply of clean water for both site employees and local communities is naturally a prime consideration. Medilink acts as an independent expert assessor and we view our role in providing health and safety impact assessments as more than a legal requirement. We see our work also as a moral and ethical duty to the local communities who play host to our multinational clients’ infrastructure and extraction operations.