Sustainability Success Story – Dr Euan Low

15th November 2023

In this blog series, which is part of our Sustainability Hub, we’re speaking to chemical engineers across the world making a difference to make sustainable practices and products a reality and more accessible to all for the wider benefit of our society and globe.

Dr Euan Low is a Technical Advisor with 25 years of water-sector advisory experience in both emerging and mature markets and until this year lead PwC’s South East Asia’s infrastructure advisory practice. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge, and is a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Scientist. 

What do you see as the main challenges for governments in implementing the UN SDG6 target to expand international cooperation and capacity-building to support developing countries?

Water management, supply and sanitation services in developing countries are predominantly provided by government departments with severely constrained budgets that prevents investment in maintaining, upgrading or expanding the service coverage.  Consequently, water resources are typically depleted and compromised, water supply services are sub-standard and there is very limited coverage of hygienic sewage and sanitation. 

This is a complex problem comprising of institutional challenges, funding shortages and a lack of talent with the experience to deliver solutions.

Governments need to overcome these challenges by:

  • building financial transparency in the sector through corporatisation of the sector and robust accounting,
  • increasing the ability of these corporations to bill at full cost recovery for those consumers that can afford to pay (and there is a significant proportion of consumers that can afford to pay), and strengthening public awareness of how water services are deeply important for sustainable societies as described in the UNSDG6 metrics.

How can the private support this target?

Many market segments in developing countries have deep awareness of the socio-economic and financial benefits of robust water management, supply and sanitation services, including better health, higher economic productivity, greater resilience to water-related disasters, consequently, these segments have a willingness and ability to pay tariffs that provide full cost recovery. 

The pathway for private sector to sustainably engage is through lobbying CEO’s to pledge to the UN’s CEO water stewardship mandate, which requires the monitoring, reporting and improvement in water stewardship.

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How has your chemical engineering training and career helped you to contribute to implementing this target?

Water resource management and its inherent planning of circular economies leverages the core components of a chemical engineers’ training on mass and energy balances, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics.  Whilst the commercial engineering competencies of cost management, project economics and contracting are fundamental to developing robust contracts that enable investments in appropriate water technologies for providing sustainable water services.

The camaraderie in the chemical engineering profession nurtures soft skills that are needed for leading communication and consensus building across disciplines and amongst stakeholders.

Visit our Sustainability Hub to access a suite of on-demand training courses that are free to members, and knowledge resources that will help you embed sustainable principles and practices into everyday work and life.