"Water bankruptcy" a threat in many regions -report

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 25 Sep 2012 18:16 GMT
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BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Many world regions face “water bankruptcy” due to mismanagement of water resources, with implications for food and energy security, experts have warned.

This mismanagement of water and aquatic systems has “led to situations where both social and ecological systems are in jeopardy and have even collapsed,” said the report, Science-Policy Bridges over Troubled Waters - a study of almost 200 major international water-related projects over the past 20 years.

Yet “many in the policy- and decision- making realm regard these systems and their resources as limitless and freely available,” said the report, published by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the largest public funder of environmental and sustainable development projects, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report was launched on Monday, the opening day of the GEF International Waters Science Conference in Bangkok.

“The consequences of poor decision-making are dire: we face a ‘water bankruptcy’ in many regions of the world with implications for food and energy security, adaptation to climate variability and change, economic growth and human security challenges,” it added.

The report urged investment in science to identify emerging issues and track trends relating to the use of water resources to help reduce the risks.

It also said links between science and policymaking should be strengthened and encouraged scientists to be at the forefront of knowledge dissemination.

“‘Faceless science’ does not inspire confidence in the information projects are producing and the advice that stems from them,” the report said.


“Urbanization and economic activity are increasingly putting river basins under intense pressures, which are projected to increase further due to growing water scarcity and diminishing water quality,” said the report.

It said rivers are particularly exposed to human pressures, as they are where most of the largest cities and areas with the highest population densities are situated.

Ten river basins, including the Ganges, Yangtze, Niger and Danube, are home to a quarter of the world’s population and water scarcity is likely to be significant in seven of these basins by 2050.

“This has serious implications for human development, the economy and basin/downstream ecosystems,” said the report.

The report also said management measures such as flow regulation, damming and water consumption in dry regions change entire river systems.

Humans are also impacting oceans, the report added.

“In some marine areas, dissolved oxygen – a critical ecological indicator for coastal marine ecosystems – has changed drastically over a relatively short time and has become a worldwide crisis,” it said.

“Overall, the huge increase in the stored heat in oceans does not bode well for impacts on climate, ecosystems, sea level and eventually human society,” it added.