The year of water cooperation
Today on March 22 we celebrate the UN World Water Day to highlight the importance of sustainable management of freshwater resources and tackle the water related challenges we face globally.
Our blue planet is at a most interesting crossroad. The physical water situation is in quite dire straits; the demand for freshwater is increasing rapidly due to both population and economic growth. The requirements to produce more food and energy, as well as the variability of water availability, are putting our water resources under significant stress. There is little progress towards the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goal of halving by 2015 the proportion of the population without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
We are also seeing strongly increasing water demand from areas that have been less thirsty in the past. Demand from manufacturing industries is projected to quadruple to 2050, and water use by both thermal electricity generation and households is set to more than double.
At the same time, attention to water issues also seems to be rising up the charts. It is hard to measure, but I hope and believe, that global water awareness actually is increasing quicker than global water demand!
In a survey to member states compiled by the UN on priority areas for post-2015 goals; food, water and energy was a distinct top trio. For the second year in a row, water supply crisis was among the top three global risks in the yearly survey by World Economic Forum. We are also seeing how water issues are being prioritized by actors outside of the traditional water community, most significantly from the food and energy sectors.
Amidst all this, there is significant talking and thinking going on to develop new wise ambitions that will support the movement towards a sustainable and desirable world for all – the so called post-2015 development agenda. I am optimistic that the newfound awareness about the importance of water will be converted into far-reaching goals and targets on water as a resource, as a right and as a service.
I am also seeing clear indications of both the need for and the openness to new collaborations and ideas. The post-2015 goals are being discussed as inclusively as our electronic means of communication permits. We do see more cooperation emerging between governments, the private sector, academia and civil society. There are even cases where common ground for collaboration for a more water wise world is found between competitors. It is of course most fitting that all these efforts are emerging during the International Year of Water Cooperation, and we at SIWI look forward to contributing even further towards improved cooperation and more concrete outcomes through the World Water Week on the same theme in September in Stockholm.
Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute