This week people gather from around the globe at the annual Stockholm World Week. If previous years are anything to go by, the “Water is life” cliché will be repeated endlessly. But the phrase is useful shorthand for this simple fact: water is the cornerstone of human health and economic development
. If managed poorly, water is an obstacle to development; if managed well, it brings prosperity and peace.
With a growing global population, a rise in energy and industrial production, the demand for water is reaching new levels.
With the clock counting down towards the November climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, where parties to the climate treaty agreed in Paris will negotiate implementation, it's clear that managing water resources will be a key aspect of any effective deal.
Globally, more than 748 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. That is more than double the population of the entire United States.
Imagine having to venture out into a conflict zone in search of water because rebel groups and government forces have targeted the pipelines. Imagine walking miles in the blazing summer heat, then waiting hours at a public tap to fill up your containers. Now imagine realizing the jugs are too heavy to carry back home.
When the General Assembly declared 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC) three years ago, the U.N.'s highest policy-making body was conscious of the perennial conflicts triggered by competition over one of the world's most critical finite resources.
Last May the European Commission reported that scores of infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip, financed mostly by the European Union, have been damaged or destroyed, wittingly or unwittingly, by Israeli military forces in the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
When the international community was struggling to ward off a potential decline in development aid in early 2000, it came up with a novel idea: a proposal for "new and innovative sources of financing", including a tax on airline tickets and a levy on foreign exchange transactions.
As the world faces possible water scarcities in the next two to three decades, the U.S. intelligence community has already portrayed a grim scenario for the foreseeable future: ethnic conflicts, regional tensions, political instability and even mass killings.
Small-scale irrigation schemes can provide the biggest opportunity for boosting food security in Africa, according to Meredith Giordano, the research director at the International Water Management Institute.
Paradoxically, the water we "eat" is likely to become one of the growing new dangers to millions of the world’s thirsty, hungering for this finite natural resource.
With the U.N. ominously warning of an impending food crisis following severe droughts in farmlands in the United States, Brazil, Russia and at least two rain-deprived states in India, the world will once again turn its attention to a finite natural resource: water.