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Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink (part 2)

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Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink (part 2)

Continued from the earlier article: Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink (part 1).

In rural Finland there are over a thousand water cooperatives serving farm businesses and villages. Whilst licensed by the government and allotted a limit to the amount of water they can extract, the cooperatives have complete control over price. This means they can offer favourable rates to their members because their decision is not influenced by fluctuations of the market. The Finnish water cooperatives also have the network benefits of other partnering with other regional associations. If for instance the water quality in one area is not sufficient, due to extenuating natural circumstances, the cooperative may buy water from a neighbouring cooperative-owned water network, thus ensuring continued low prices and supply dependency.

Taking this learning a step further should involve residents recognising and accepting they had rights and responsibilities when it comes to water. This, after all is, is a fair way to realise genuine change. Each of us would have a right to access quality water to sustain life but we also have a responsibility to not abuse it, say, by watering our gardens during times of drought - something which needs to be backed up by serious sanctions for those who cheat (ever heard of a neighbour or local golf club being taken to court by the authorities for fragrantly disobeying a hosepipe ban? No, neither have I). In short, real behaviour change will require new controls (e.g. water efficient planning rules for buildings) and incentives (e.g. tax breaks for green roofs or water butts), yes, but for some laggards, it may also require a push rather than a nudge in the right direction.

Clearly this raises big dilemmas over costly and ageing national water infrastructure, especially in an age of austerity, and so timeliness will be paramount. Take for instance the UK's forthcoming new Water Strategy. Given parts of the UK suffers from worse water scarcity than areas of the Sudan and Syria, it is a tremendous window of opportunity for Cameron's administration to show the world how do things better and back up commitments to both devolve power and to be the 'greenest government ever' by setting out a bold vision for water resiliency.

Author: Philip Monaghan 

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