Water Journal : Water Journal May 2014
MAY 2014 WATER 7 My Point of View A common thread connecting all these facts is water security. As our human population keeps growing and increasing its living standards, our planet faces a soaring demand to meet these new needs. The green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s provided a major increase in food production worldwide. This revolution was made possible primarily because of the use of new technology in the area of fertilisers, pesticides and water for irrigation to compensate for the variability of climate. In the following two decades after the 1970s, the use of irrigation increased by one-third and grains productivity moved from 1.4 tons/ha in the early 1960s to 2.7 tons/ha in the early 1990s. UN experts claim that over nine billion people will need to be fed by 2050. Despite all productivity advances achieved in the past, the way ahead will demand from the scienti c and political communities additional efforts to nd adequate solutions for this challenge. In the perspective of this global trend, water security is a key element to ensure human and ecosystem basic needs. With an uneven distribution of water throughout the world, the risks are permanent. More than 1.2 billion people live today in river basins where water scarcity is the norm and where the trend is of increasing shortages due to population growth. The lives of these people rely on their capacity to have water to feed themselves despite the physical constraints. THE THREE PILLARS OF WATER SECURITY English dictionaries de ne security as: "freedom from danger, from fear or anxiety, from want or deprivation". This is demonstrated by the history of humanity's management of water, of becoming engineers, for example, to assure we have good water in the right quantity at the proper time and place, to predict oods, to impound water for droughts, to use water to help us generate wealth and avoid deprivation. All rich civilisations have invested social capital in actions to help achieve the sense of managing such uncertainties as a precursor to growth and prosperity. Water security occurs when all people, at all times, have access to water in suf cient quality and quantity to meet their human, economic and environmental needs for an active and healthy life. This de nition is based on three pillars: • Human security, which concerns basic needs -- the security that brings safe drinking water for health and hygiene and water to produce food; • Socio-economic security, by using water as an engine of development to reduce poverty in all countries of the world; • Ecological security, as human communities must return to nature the water necessary to maintain a healthy aquatic ecosystem. Water security became a major concern over recent decades because of the increase in competing uses, environmental degradation and the dif culties in dealing with climate variability and change. Technology will play an important role in this matter since it is needed in both demand and supply management. With demand management, for example, we will have to focus on improving eating habits and reducing losses from the eld to the fork. On the supply side, we should look for more ef cient methodologies for weather and climate forecasting; more ef cient irrigation systems and more sustainable farming processes. We need to look also outside the water box in the elds of, for example, genetic engineering and soil conservation. Water security must be attained to guarantee all aspects of human development, economic growth and environmental sustainability. Water ts within this broader de nition of security embracing political, health, economic, food, energy, environmental and many other concerns, and acts as an overarching link between them. WHY NEW INFRASTRUCTURE IS VITAL An issue that is central to water security is the need to increase water storage in reservoirs all over the world. This is necessary to improve our resilience to climate variability and change. Let us take the case of the UK and Spain. The UK is located in an area of humid oceanic climate. In this kind of climate, the percentage of runoff available without infrastructure implementation is 42 per cent. In Southern Spain, with its subtropical dry-seasonal climate, this number is a meagre nine per cent. What did the wise decision-makers of Europe do in this case? They built infrastructure in Southern Spain to face the long drought periods. Today the index of storage per person in the UK is just 100m3/year, whereas in Southern Spain this number goes up to 1,500m3/year. In terms of days of average storage in dams, this represents 10 days in the UK and 190 days in Southern Spain. What about the developing world? If we consider the case of the African continent, it is clear that water security is a major issue due to the high climatic variability. Lack of economic capital poses an additional threat to the poor population. Economic growth in many countries of this continent is dependent on rainfall; indeed, the dependency of the economy on rainfall of some countries such as Zimbabwe and Ethiopia is notorious. A clear correlation exists between GDP and annual rainfall amounts; when rainfall is low, little economic growth takes place. The capacity to manage the uncertainties of too little or too much water is central to the ability to grow and prosper, and requires infrastructure. Certainly, the impact of lack of infrastructure is much greater in developing countries. While losses due to oods and droughts in GDP percentage in developing countries represent an impressive 14%, in developed countries, where all the infrastructure has been built, it is four times less. In countries like the US where massive infrastructure has been built, the cumulative bene ts from avoided losses in case of oods reach an impressive USD700 billion. It is clear that water security depends on water infrastructure. However, water security also necessitates having solid institutions to manage water resources ef ciently and economic mechanisms to incentivise ef cient demand management. The World Water Council has been advocating for global recognition of water security as a milestone for the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals. During the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York in September 2012, we launched a call to all countries in the world for a Pact for Water Security. During the 68th UN General Assembly we reaf rmed our commitment towards this global water security pact by proposing that the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals post-2015 consider a speci c goal on water security. Last but not least, let us not forget that water security is by and large a political issue. As the climate change debate now peaks with the release of the 5th IPCC assessment report, we should not forget that the most important impacts of climate are manifested through, by and with water. As the Chinese have taught us over thousands of years through their beautiful and elaborate writing system: the resulting ideogram of the combination of two ideograms, river and dike, has not the meaning of a hydraulic structure, but rather a political order.
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