The world's supplies of clean, fresh water cannot sustain today's "profligate" use and inadequate management, which have brought shrinking food supplies and rising food costs to most countries, WWF Director General James Leape told the opening session of World Water Week in Stockholm today. "Behind the world food crisis is a global freshwater crisis, expected to rapidly worsen as climate change impacts intensify," Leape said. "Irrigation-fed agriculture provides 45 percent of the world's food supplies, and without it, we could not feed our planet's population of six billion people." Leape warns that many of the world's irrigation areas are highly stressed and drawing more water than rivers and groundwater reserves can sustain, especially in view of climate change.
At the same time, he said, freshwater food reserves are declining in the face of the quickening pace of dam construction and unsustainable water extractions from rivers. At a time when billions of people live without access to safe drinking water or suffer ill health due to poor sanitation, when food producers battle biofuel producers for land and water resources, and when global climate change is altering the overall water balance, 2,500 water experts are gathered this week at the Stockholm International Fairs and Congress Center to craft solutions to these problems. World Water Week is an annual event co-ordinated by the Stockholm International Water Institute. This year's conference has the overall theme of Progress and Prospects on Water: For A Clean and Healthy World with Special Focus on Sanitation" in keeping with the UN declaration of 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation.
According to an announcement here the amount of people without potable water is going down. This is good news, and is in part due to organizations such as Water Partners International, Water Aid, and other organizations coming together in the water justice movement to bring potable water to more areas of the world that need it most. It is an encouraging sign, but the work is far from over. Glaciers worldwide continue to melt threatening the water supplies for millions of people as freshwater lakes and rivers continue to decline due to a combination of climate change/global warming, overusage and pollution.
The measures outlined by the forum need to be seriously instituted instead of just being talk to carry over for the next year. As population rises freshwater resources will become even scarcer due to climate changes, pollution, and corporatization, so conservation and more efficient irrigation practices worldwide must be instituted. It is then ironic to see the water fountains going outside the sign to this forum. I wonder if they realized that. This is the most important environmental issue and crisis we are facing in our world, and the only way people will know about it is for those with the passion to get the message out to persevere in doing so.
Let us hope to see a report from World Water Week that does more than address problems in words but also solves them with actions.