More than half of the world’s people depend daily on water resources shared by more than one country and 90 per cent of the global population live in countries that share river or lake basins. However, 60 per cent of the world’s 276 international river basins lack any type of cooperative management framework.
Each year brings new pressures on water, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Feb 11 in his video message for the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013, which seeks to provide a platform for countries to collaborate in the management of this precious resource in the interest of peace and development.
One-third of the world’s people already live in countries with moderate to high water stress. Competition is growing between farmers and herders; industry and agriculture; town and country. Upstream and downstream, and across borders, we need to cooperate for the benefit of all – now and in the future, Mr Ban said.
Overexploitation, management, financing of water resources, all of these aspects are incredibly important and cooperation at different levels is therefore critical, UNESCO Science Specialist Ana Persic said during a press conference to mark the start of the Year at UN Headquarters in New York. Ms. Persic added that the benefits of intensifying cooperation include poverty reduction, equity, economic growth, and the protection of the environment. We know water is critical for human life, but it is also critical for life on Earth if we want to protect and sustainably manage the planet we have.
The UN representative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Paul Egerton, underlined the link between climate change and water, stressing that extreme weather events result in desertification or extreme flooding in different areas and hinder development and access to safe water.
Water scarcity triggers migration, refugees, situations where basic human rights are weakened or threatened, Mr. Egerton said, adding that fewer resources can also trigger conflict and governments need to address these risks immediately.
The terms of the equation remain simple: for the next few decades, given the volume of available water, and under the present circumstances, will it be possible to provide enough water to a population forecast to be at least 9 billion by 2050 (according to the medium hypothesis proposed by the United Nations) using a volume which will be roughly the same as it is now? This video, released to coincide with the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013, outlines those challenges and Global Water Partnership’s approach in addressing them. An integrated approach to managing the world’s water resources — for economic growth, social equity, and ecosystem sustainability — is key to achieving a water secure world. More information:
In the context of stress and scarcity, the challenge will be to find creative ways to manage water resources without emphasizing already existing disputes and conflicts. This is raising important questions: is it reasonable to envisage more long distance water transfer without threatening water reserves and harming environmental balance? Which are the countries and regions that will suffer the most due to lack of water? And in which countries will an important part of the population still have to wait for decades before being supplied with improved water?
Talking about water or any other basic resource scarcity from a global perspective must also take into account the demographic, energy, food and technological trends. The five variables have a profound impact on each other and no analysis of any of them will produce credible results if any of the variables is forgotten or taken as a given.
That explains the importance of serious studies on the prospective connection between two or more of these variables at any given time. Daniel Parillo’s report, Energy Production Could Require Double The Amount Of Water by 2035, published in FLASHPOINT BLOG, American Security Project (ASP), on February 8, 2013, is a good expample.
If water scarcity is thought to be a problem now, just wait until 2035. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has reported that water consumption due to the production of energy sources such as coal-fired power plants, biofuels, and natural gas will rise from the 66 billion cubic meters (BCM) used back in 2010 to 135BCM in 2035. That’s equivalent to the water consumption of every resident in the United States for the next three years.The IEA forecast shows that by 2035, coal-fired electricity and biofuels will represent roughly 80% of the 69BCM increase in energy’s water consumption, while fracking and natural gas will only account for 10% of future water consumption. With the United Nations predicting that 1.8 billion people will be living in water scarce areas by 2025, it is vitally important that action be taken now to curb energy production’s reliance on water worldwide.
Resources for the Media: