We live in a world of growing interdependence. The impact of economic, financial, and natural crises spreads faster than ever before, and affects more people. When one part of an economy collapses, it can trigger a chain reaction across the globe. The climate crisis has shown that our planet is an indivisible whole; and the food crisis has demonstrated that nations depend on one another’s ability to produce food, and on the policies that support production.
Water security is influenced by all of these global challenges. The financial crisis has constrained capital investment in increasing water security in many countries. Recurrent spikes in food prices have exposed the vulnerability of national food security. Changing weather patterns have caused catastrophic fl oods and droughts. The lives lost, damage done to homes and businesses, and direct economic losses from these water-related disasters have a negative impact on employment, social services, and infrastructure.
Water Security Challenge is Real
An urgent message is emerging from international debates about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be set in 2015: the world must act to prevent water crises. The scale of today’s water security challenge should not be underestimated. The social, economic, environmental, and political consequences of water shortages are as real as disastrous floods and droughts.Threats to water security come from many quarters: rapidly growing and urbanising populations with changing lifestyles and consumption patterns;competing demands from agriculture, industry,and energy; unpredictable risks caused by climate change and environmental degradation; and growing tension over scarce water resources that flow across administrative boundaries.
Water is a central theme of the UN Rio+20 Declaration.The Declaration emphasises the need to establish a green economy as the means to achieving sustainable development while protecting and restoring the world’s natural resources. Water is key to all aspects of development: food security, health, and poverty reduction, as well as sustaining economic growth in agriculture, industry, and energy generation.
Too many people still lack access to water, sanitation, food, and energy. The burden on women and girls is disproportionately large, as they often do not benefit directly from clean water supplies. This is totally unacceptable. We must take a human rights-based approach to remove these inequalities and achieve equitable and sustainable development.
Solutions Within Reach
The scale and complexity of these challenges is daunting, but solutions are within reach. The goal is to increase water security at all levels, by balancing the needs of society with available water resources. But there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy.
Each country has its own unique set of physical, social, economic, political, and environmental circumstances that will determine its pathway towards water security. Governments will need to engage with private and civil society partners to address water use and waste treatment, retention, and pollution. Together they
must find ways of balancing today’s needs with those of future generations in a socially just and gender equitable way.
Water connects us all. Understanding the connections will help us to find equitable ways of sharing limited water resources among many competing demands. Political will and skill, combined with strong, visionary leadership, can help bring together opposing interests, integrate scientifi c understanding into policy-making, and negotiate socially acceptable trade-offs. Partnerships for sustainable development, such as GWP, can help countries to design and implement effective policy and build consensus to reach positive outcomes. Increasing water security is crucial to achieving new and sustainable development pathways.