Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink (part 1)
the human body weight, needs to be topped up on a regular basis and we cannot go without it for more than about week. As well as drinking it, we also use water for cooking and sanitation, not to mention industrial processes. Yet despite water being essential to our survival, more often than not in the West, we treat it with distain. A fact reflected in its low price (compared to petrol or electricity -- things we may be addicted to but can live without?) and how the developed world fritters it away (you may leave the kitchen tap running into an unplugged sink at home but you would not pour petrol from the station pump down the drain, right?).
What makes matters worse in terms of our taking water for granted, is that despite 70% of the Earth’s surface being covered by water, only 2.5% of the total volume is freshwater resources and fit for human consumption. Coupled with the facts from the WBCSD and FAO that in 60% of European cities with more than 100,000 people, groundwater is being used at a faster rate than it can be replenished, by 2025, 1,800 million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions.
No need to reach for valium just yet however, because maybe this is all about change. It would appear the UN’s leadership is mulling over whether or not to name 2012 as the year of water given the importance of sustainable water management in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This should be welcomed of course. But local governance needs to be a key area of any water campaign here. This goes beyond calls for a new shadow price for water or for the world’s largest industrial water users to develop water security strategies. It requires new forms of water stewardship between citizens, municipal authorities and the private sector. Perhaps a chance to do things differently then, by looking at the learning from water co-operatives in Bolivia and Finland? (to be continued)
Author: Philip Monaghan