I would like to share with you some personal views about the major freshwater challenges in our world

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1 I would like to share with you some personal views about the major freshwater challenges in our world Everybody uses water, everybody uses water daily. A a result water matters to everyone and everyone has his own opinion about water, water constraints, water-related issues. Then, when organising i a public debate about water, usually many different facets of water are mentioned by the various participants I would like to ask you to forget - for a moment - your own individual concerns about freshwater and to consider only the most important challenges for mankind What are they? 1

2 Do the media depict them and explain them to the general public? Not really, only partially. In the media, world water challenges are mainly described by two pictures: -water scarcity resulting from droughts and -women carrying water buckets in rural areas. Quite recently, a third concept has emerged and this even becomes most tfashionable: climate change. How is mainly understood d the impact of climate change on freshwater issues? As an increase of water shortages resulting from increased droughts. Are these 3 issues the most important freshwater challenges? Unfortunately not. There are many others. Unfortunately, media mostly depict issues that make the general public think that most problems result from nature and rainwater shortages and, except global warming, are not created by mankind. Let us only consider the major challenges that governments have to face to allow the life of women & men on this planet? What are they? 2

3 The major freshwater challenges lie in 4 main areas: -Water resources - Access to water - Pollution of Water - Water-related disasters To a large extent, these 4 areas are independent from each other. Is one more crucial than others. Hard to say. It depends very much on the place you live. All 4 of them are crucial at world level. Do these challenges result from vagaries of Nature? Only a minority of them Except in a minority of regions where nature is very tough with human life, in most places freshwater-related related issues are manmade They are linked to the organisation of society. Solving them is a collective challenge, managing freshwater is typically a political issue 3

4 Then, the problem is not water, water is not an issue, water is life The challenge is to manage water, it is a political challenge 4

5 Water challenges are becoming more and more acute. Water stress is becoming a popular concept. As a result, country governments discuss more and more water issues when they meet together. This is new. Water has risen on the global political agenda. As an actor in the international community, let me update you on the main decisions of governments Are they collectively addressing the 4 main water challenges? Only partially. They have decided common goals in some areas. - Water resources: Gvts decided in 2002 Jo Burg Summit to build water resources national plans in all countries by Access to water: Gvts decided in 2000 to halve by 2015 the proportion of people needing drinking water. They completed this goal by a similar goal about access to sanitation in Jo burg in 2002 However, despite the urgency, they have not agreed on common goals on the other issues. Let us consider in more detail each of the 4 major challenges 5

6 There are more and more tensions about water resources. This is what is measured by the water stress. What are the causes of this growing water stress in most countries? I do not consider the desert countries but all the other ones. Rainwater has always been erratic and from millenaries people have learnt to store water in order to keep water for the dry periods. It is now clear that in many places, this need is increasing because of climate change and increased variations of rainfall. However, most tensions about resources directly result from human activities: all categories of water-users would like to use more water - Farmers want more water to irrigate and grow more food - With demographic growth, people are more numerous every year Furthermore, with economic development every individual wants more water - Industries want more water to develop their activities Therefore, what are the resource-related responsibilities for governments? There are 3 of them 6

7 One action is to secure additional resources from all available sources: Aquifers Reclaiming waste water (water from others) Seawater > development of desalination Building additional reservoirs None of these actions are very easy. There are often political obstacles. However, fetching additional resources is often the immediate choice of governments. 7

8 Consequences are not always very satisfactory. Here you can see that more and more aquifers are used in a way that does not allow them to replenish Governments have other possibilities and duties 8

9 Another way to mitigate water stress is to address the causes directly by convincing users to optimise their water demand To-day, the most-crucial issue lies with water for agriculture because farmers are by far the most-important users of water resources - 70% - and the first ones to suffer from climate change. Because of demographic growth, mankind needs more food but in many places cannot allow to use more water for food. I pinpoint a very recent issue: in addition to water for food, how much water will farmers want to make biofuel? 9

10 All these actions do not alleviate governments from a most difficult task: they have the responsibility of allocating water resources between users. When there is plenty of water, this is not an issue. However, with growing water stresses, governments will increasingly have to make unpopular p decisions by limiting consumption of some categories of users. Are they prepared for such decisions, have they started to organise institutional discussions and negotiations between users? It depends on places. Although not understood by many, deciding allocation of water resources is a growing g challenge, probably more important than natural water scarcity. 10

11 Altogether, fetching additional resources, optimising demand and allocating resources must be done in an integrated way National resource management plans were supposed to be prepared by each government before the end of Only a small number of them are available. This shows the political challenge. 11

12 Now, the second challenge, quite independent from water stress: access to drinking water and basic sanitation. The issue lies with population but not all the population. 12

13 It lies with the part of the population p that has no satisfactory access to drinking water. Is it an issue of limitation of water resources? NO. The issue is not to put more water in existing pipes although this may be useful the issue is to create an easy link through connections or standpipes to existing pipes. It is an issue of access for all individuals id to collective water systems. Today, mankind is divided in two parts: one part has access to public water systems and another part must find its own way to fetch water. For urban dwellers the cost of a litre of water is more expensive for this second category than for those who benefit from collective investment and subsidies. It is one of the major scandals of our century. Is it an economical and financial issue? Only partly It is mainly a governance issue and a matter of political priority. 13

14 Access to drinking water 14

15 A miracle occurred in 2000: All national governments unanimously decided to address this access to water issue. They committed themselves to halve by 2015 the proportion of people lacking a satisfactory access to drinking water. The agreed targets have been named the MDGs. Is it a rural issue as the media like to show it? Certainly However, all demographic growth today is in cities. As a result, the MDGs targets are more or less equally divided between rural and urban households. Where are we on the road towards 2015? We are late Some countries, like South Africa, are succeeding. Others are many years behind schedule. In order to achieve the drinking water goal, the number of projects should increase by 20% in the world 15

16 The other MDG is about access to basic sanitation 16

17 The target is very similar. However, the situation is far worse The number of people needing sanitation has only decreased by 4% in 14 years. To achieve the goals in due time, the number of projects should be increased by 70% 17

18 Achieving the MDGs require a broad mobilisation. All stakeholders have a role to play, including water professionals. 18

19 However, the MDGs are about a way of life that on an individual basis you would not accept. All of you have access to water in a convenient way: taps. This allows you not to worry daily about fetching water 19

20 In our world, there are 3 billion people who have no tap at home or nearby. More than half the population of developing countries must carry water every day. This takes their time, their energy and prevents many from going to school or from having jobs. Without a strong political move access to water will remain an issue for a long time. And, again, most of the monies that will be spent to fetch additional resources or to mitigate climate change will not benefit those who are not connected to public water systems. Governments should earmark specific budgets and carefully measure the number of people in their population whose access to water is improving. 20

21 Third challenge: pollution of waters Pollution of water is an issue in all countries. Much has been done and is being done in developed countries. However, in developing countries most waste water flows go to the river or the sea without any treatment. Negative impact on nature but more and more on human life is growing. Although a crucial issue in many places, at the world level, this is not a priority. There is no global goal about removing pollution from waste waters When talking sanitation, up to now, governments have only meant basic sanitation, i.e. waste water removal from households. At the UN level, they have not yet seriously considered removing pollution from waste waters 21

22 Thanks to the UNSGAB, 2008 has been declared by the UN general assembly as the International Year for Sanitation Let us hope that this IYS will allow governments to understand the pollution challenges better and decide action. 22

23 Fourth challenge: water-related disasters Water-related disasters are a growing challenge in many countries because they are less and less accepted by the general public and because they seem to be worsened by climate change. 23

24 Today, governments have no specific goal about mitigating g water- related disasters. However, there are talks and it is possible that in the near future a goal will be decided. This goal could be about anticipating disasters 24

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