We must work together to protect water resources and humanity

by Dr. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss
Friday, 20 March 2015 11:37 GMT

Brazilian artist and activist Mundano places a cactus plant in the cracked ground to work on a drought-related cactus installation called "Desert of Cantareira" at Atibainha dam, part of the Cantareira reservoir, during a drought in Nazare Paulista, Sao Paulo December 2, 2014. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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Threats to water security come from many quarters

The World Water Day is a celebration of the progress already underway towards a water secure world as well as a call to action. This year’s World Water Day offers a wonderful opportunity to analyze the impact that the 2005-2015 United Nations Water For Life Decade has had on improving water management and how we might go further through the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

No doubt that the Water Decade proved to be helpful in a number of respects namely with regards to accelerating the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the area of water and sanitation efforts. It has been reported that today 116 countries have met the MDG target of access to improved sources of drinking water and 77 countries have met the target of improved sanitation.

There is also a growing recognition that if we wish to manage water resources effectively then we must approach this together in an integrated manner. GWP with its partners have been tirelessly driving a worldwide movement towards Integrated Water Resources Management.  We are gratified by the fact that there is encouraging progress, as reported in the UN-Water Status Report on the Application of Integrated Approaches to the Development, Management and Use of Water Resources presented at Rio+20. Indeed, from the 2012 UN survey of 134 countries that 82% have embarked on reforms to improve the enabling environment and integrate approaches to water resources management, 65% have developed integrated water resource management plans, and 34% say they are at an advanced stage of implementation. 

This decade has witnessed the emergence of new and modified paradigms. The Green Economy/Growth and the Water-Energy–Food nexus have become subjects of international debate, reinforcing the need for an integrated approach. But, paradigms are not enough. They must be applicable in a fast-changing world.

The message emerging from the current international debates on setting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 is one of urgency for the world to act to prevent water crises.  The size of today’s water security challenge should not be underestimated. The social, economic, 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; competition from agriculture, industry, and energy; unpredictable risks from climate change and environmental degradation; and growing tension over scarce water resources that flow across administrative boundaries. All of us can, and must, find ways to safeguard water and, with it, the future of humanity.

Global Water Partnership strongly believes that the SDGs should set new strategies in motion governing the way we live and interact with our environment to ensure there will be enough water to support development and future generations. Global sustainability is, fundamentally, about our ability to influence the future of our freshwater resources and the future of humanity. We recognize this is a complex undertaking. Good management of both natural and human induced water problems requires a broad set of stakeholders to engage in long-term collaboration.  This is about stewardship of water resources for the greatest good of societies and the environment. Stewardship is a public responsibility requiring dynamic, adaptable, participatory, and balanced planning and, at the end of the day, it is all about coordinating and sharing.

Dr. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss is the Chair of the Global Water Partnership. Dr. Schaefer-Preuss is an economist who has been engaged in the field of development policy for more than 35 years. Her latest assignments include Vice President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development and Director General of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).


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