Taking The Pulse Of Global Freshwater Issues


By 2030 people worldwide will withdraw more water than the planet can replenish.

March 22, 2010 marks World Water Day, a 24-hour observance held annually since 1993 to draw attention to the role that freshwater plays in the world. In recent years it has focused global concern on the dwindling supply of clean water.

With governments from Australia to India feeling the heat of dryness like never before, multinational corporations pledging to become better global water citizens, and a multitude of nonprofit organizations gaining position in the councils of influence worldwide, the global freshwater crisis is steadily becoming a top public priority.

In January, global business and elected leaders assembled in Davos at the World Economic Forum learned one more striking fact that underlies international concern. By 2030, WEF experts said, people will withdraw 30 percent more water than nature can replenish. Unless practices for using and conserving water shift dramatically, shortages will hit communities and businesses, especially agriculture, which uses 70 percent of the world’s fresh water.

Here is some of what we expect in what promises to be a busy year in the world of water:


■Awareness and action
■Business of water
■Bottled Battles
■GE: One company’s approach, inside and out
■Water Disclosure Project
■United Nations CEO Water Mandate
■Water and Global Health

Awareness and Action
A team of researchers and advocates that includes the Global Water Partnership, Global Public Policy Network on Water Management, Stockholm International Water Institute and the Stakeholder Forum, have been working with hundreds of smaller groups to rally support for water’s role in international climate change negotiations this year.

The work was prompted by the disappointing outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December, when water was left out of the Copenhagen Accord. The non-binding agreement calls for modest action on global warming.

If the international climate treaty doesn’t better emphasize the water-climate intersection, people living in vulnerable coastal nations, such as the island of Maldives, and farmers facing volatile rainfall, such as those in Australia, will be unprepared to face major catastrophes, Stakeholder Forum Policy Coordinator Hannah Stoddart told Circle of Blue.

At the international level, Stoddart and her team work directly with UN officials, and also are coordinating an unofficial international water day in Bonn, Germany in June. They are arranging high-level round table discussions that will rally more support for water issues in the months leading up to the next climate change summit in December, in Mexico.

“The eventual goal is for a recognition on an international level that there are currently no operational international treaties addressing water issues specifically,” Stoddart said. “We’re at the beginning of quite a long journey.”

Garnering local support is an important component of making sure the issue gains global prominence, according to marketing experts who work on environmental issues.

“It’s so hard to make people realize that they have a connection to the issue, to the sources of the problem,” said Joel Finkelstein a senior vice president and head of the environment team for Fenton Communications, a U.S.-based firm.

Water offers an even bigger challenge in some ways, he added. It’s still extremely difficult to illustrate the consequences of our current water consumption in countries like the U.S., where citizens can turn on the tap without thinking twice.

But the consequences of water scarcity are more powerfully conveyed through emotional stories than statistical reports. And Finkelstein believes that social media promises new ways to humanize water and environmental issues.


This is the test of our generation. As predictions state, by 2030 we will be drawing out more water than the Earth is able to replenish. Rivers worldwide are drying up and many no longer flow to their source. Glaciers are melting worldwide threatening water sources for millions of people which will in turn affect agricultural output. Privitization continues at a rapacious pace thus perpetuating disease, water scarcity, and an erosion of our freedom. We as humans have affected the hydrologic cycle through contributing to global warming and in also causing scarcity mainly due to mismanagement, wasteful agricultural irrigation practices, water pollution and toxification rendering water unusable and threatening marinelife, and privitization which keeps it in the hands of greedy water barons who refuse to acknowledge that water is a human right.

This is why on this World Water Day this coming Monday we must be resolved as every day to speaking out regarding declaring water a global human right. This action will go far in holding corporations accountable for their pollution and manipulations in commoditizing a resource that is a public trust and is essential to human life. And we must also reach people to make them understand the importance of water in their lives. It is true that especially in the US and other developed countries that people simply turn on a tap and the water comes out, so they don't think about what is going on a world away or how what they do affects that very hydrologic cycle.

We are entering a time in our history as a species where we are being tested as to the limits of our moral courage. We can explore and find new planets, send men to the moon, and yet we still cannot provide adequately for life on Earth. This speaks volumes about our true humanity and if we are to survive we must make the connection of how crucial it is to preserve the life we have here on Earth.

This will be the defining issue and crisis of this century. And people will be fighting over this precious resource as they have been for years as governments position themselves to control the one resource that gives them control of our lives. Are you willing to just allow them to take it? I'm not.