Reflections on World Water Day
22 March, 2013
The 20th World Water day provides important opportunity to focus on the need for greater cooperation and management of water resources.
Today is the 20th World Water Day.
Water is, by its nature, a resource that must be addressed internationally; withdrawal and use in one country will directly impact supplies in another. An international response to the challenges being faced is crucial. Wilton Park can, and does, use its convening power and international appeal to bring together important actors from around the world to discuss this issue and work towards solutions from a number of different perspectives.
Irrigation for agricultural purposes is currently estimated to be responsible for 70% of the world’s water withdrawals, and of this, up to 60% is believed to be wasted. With an increasing global population and rapid changes in eating habits, the strain on water supplies to provide enough agricultural produce is growing. Coupled with a changing climate and lack of fertile land, the pressures on the world’s water supplies are daunting. However, with effective international cooperation and appropriate responses the problems can be surmounted.
Our forthcoming conference on resilient agricultural systems will address the issue of agricultural water use in a number of regions, including Brazil, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Building on previous conferences in our series on Global food, agriculture and land use that have so far addressed many water related issues including improved soil management use and the role of science and technology, this conference will discuss how a range of farming methods can promote efficient water use in agriculture. Participants will look at a number of methods to improve water use including hydroponics, desert agriculture, integrated livestock farming in Brazil and the new methods of industrial farming.
In January 2013, we convened our annual Futures conference to examine patterns of resource availability and access over the next twenty years. Water, arguably the most important single resource on the planet, featured heavily in discussions. Again, the need to construct strong international norms around the use and management of water resources was a prominent output from the conference. Major river basin systems lack regulatory international agreements among the states through whose territory they flow. Upstream overuse or misuse can have disastrous consequences for downstream users. Most prominently, 60% of the world’s population currently live in a region served by twelve rivers emanating from a relatively small geographical area: the Himalayan Plateau. Waters from the Plateau flow through twelve countries, yet work on norms and agreements to manage these resources to the mutual benefit of all are a long way off.
Focused around the need for increasing cooperation in the use and management of freshwater resources, World Water Day will witness over two hundred events held world-wide to promote awareness of life’s most precious resource. World Water Day 2013 prompts Wilton Park to reflect on efforts so far in this field and consider how to help take forward this critical agenda.