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Standing for the value of water

Jennifer J. Sara's picture

Last week, water practitioners gathered in Stockholm for World Water Week.  This is an annual meeting to discuss the world’s water issues, organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute.  And if any reminder were needed as to the urgency of water challenges, this year’s event took place against a backdrop of Tropical Storm Harvey in the United States, monsoons and flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, and an ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa.  Billions of dollars’ worth of damage to economies, communities displaced and people killed – it’s a terrifying window into the devastating impacts of water-related extremes. 
 
It’s for these reasons and others that the World Economic Forum categorizes water scarcity as one of the main global risks facing humanity today. Around the world, 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation and 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed water.  And new World Bank research provides a wake-up call about the scale of the challenge in low and middle-income countries.
 
If we are to manage these hazards to minimize future suffering, urgent action is needed.  One of my main reflections post World Water Week is that valuing water must be an essential part of the policy agenda if we are to bend the curve towards a water-secure world.

"Valuing water must be an essential part of the policy agenda if we are to bend the curve towards a water-secure world."

As I have written before, water is a unique issue because it has an economic aspect, an ecological aspect, and a spiritual, cultural and social aspect.  These three all interlink with one another so the solution needs to be cognizant of this complexity. 
 
Historically, water has been undervalued.  Perhaps that’s because so many of us take it for granted - we turn on the tap and it flows.  But this undervaluing has led to misuse and misallocation – because water provides multiple uses and services, all too often it is it is used for purposes that do not maximize wellbeing and regulated in ways that do not recognize scarcity or promote conservation. 
 
So how do we translate the individual and community-level values into a common value system for societies and countries?  Institutional mechanisms to manage water and deliver services are crucial. 
 
Released earlier this year, the Bellagio Principles on Valuing Water encourage us to do a number of things.  Firstly, they encourage us to recognize water’s multiple values principle by considering the multiple values to different stakeholders in all decisions affecting water. Secondly, to build trust by conducting all processes to reconcile values into management systems in ways that are equitable, transparent, and inclusive of multiple values. Thirdly, to protect water sources by valuing and protecting all sources of water, including watersheds, rivers, aquifers and associated ecosystems for current and future generations. Fourthly, empowering people by promoting education and public awareness about the essential role of water and its intrinsic value. And finally, to invest and innovate by putting resources behind our institutions, infrastructure, information and innovation to realize the full potential and values of water.

All of this involves broadening our outreach and turning up the volume.  With so many important issues in the world and so much content competing for public attention, events like World Water Week are crucial for raising awareness, highlighting the scale of the challenge and showcasing solutions.  But we need to go beyond talking to those in the water sector and engage those from other sectors.  And we need leadership on this topic to catalyze action, such as from the High Level Panel on Water, which presented some of its global initiatives at World Water Week and launched a consultation on the Bellagio Principles.
 
In conclusion, I believe we need a seminal shift to value water based on the values necessary to chart an inclusive course that respects culture, religion, and environment. 

Comments

Submitted by Nand Kishore Verma on

Excellent blog to understand the importance value of water resources.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thanks for liking tbe solution of water problem for drinking,bathing,washing clothes,vehicle,animals,running factory and plantation and crop production
We wjll have to check water not to run to sea immediatrly just after rain.So pith in home and step of hills are essential to collect water in ground to be used in summer

Than we will have to condtruct reservoir to collect water of village and hilly area to be reused for farming and washing but never create drain to run to the river.
Than we sbould create more dam with good understanding with public where politicians are creating obstacles.So a good press with environmental knowledge is essential along with national integration and international understanding.
Food habit of rice,sugar should be reduced as it need more water.Bathing in tap needs more water than Bathing in pool
So lifting water in bore water by pump should be taxable to richer as poor can not get water from their dug sell to drink and bath.So poor should be supplied from river from the collected tax of richer.Lickage water,even after creating dams should once again collected from river for irrigation and drinking purposes.Fertilizer and pesticide should be restricted to improve quality of river water as land water is collected in river
Let costal area learn to preserve water and give humanity to hilly area to create dam for their Bathing purposes.

Submitted by Gulilat Birhane on

This is important topic. To properly value water, it may worth thinking of multilayer of actions. The value the politicians attached to the security of water, cataliest role it has to development and political stability. The developers, users and community, have significant role to play. Awareness has to come at all level politician to member of community- the impact that the impact of population growth, variability and possibility of increased pollution has the resources. The mitigation measures has to be looked and developed. The availability of the resource remain at stake, this has be an issue to be tabled to every one. I personally knew a lake that has been gone due to mismanagement.
I believe researchers may have solution and those solutions has to be translated into action with political commitment, increased resources allocation, introduction of efficiency and finally by ensuring maximizing benefit of affected community.

Submitted by sheila sison on

This is the primordial concern of humanity to date, water source/s its impact to human life and the future of this planet and most importantly, is our individual and government role to preserved and protect it. The urgency of our action is vital!

Submitted by Neno Kukuric on

What can we say about the value of hidden groundwater? Globally, groundwater provides more than 40% of water for drinking and for irrigated agriculture, and a third of water supply for industry. At the same time, there are strong indications that the majority of largest aquifers in the world are under the stress due to over-extraction and/or pollution. Read further on value of groundwater in: Investor Risk Analysis: Why Groundwater Matters? https://www.un-igrac.org/resource/investor-risk-analysis-why-groundwater-matters

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