World Water Day focuses on impact of rapid urban population growth on water security

Tuesday marks World Water Day 2011, which this year focuses "on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialisation and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems," the Daily Times reports. The theme, "Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge," "aims to spotlight and encourage governments, organisations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the challenge of urban water management," the newspaper writes (Sarwar, 3/22).

Half of the world population currently lives in cities, with three million people moving into urban areas each week, according to the Guardian's "Poverty Matters Blog." By 2030, "nearly two-thirds of humanity will be living in cities, delegates at a three-day event held in Cape Town to mark World Water Day were told," the blog says (Middletown, 3/22). "Water demand in 2030 is expected to exceed current supply by 40 percent, the 2030 Water Resources Group, a World Bank-backed panel of businesses, predicts," the New York Times reports (Gardiner, 3/21).

According to the WHO, an estimated 884 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation (Kaiser Global Health Policy Report, 3/21). Additionally, "[a]pproximately 10% of the global burden of disease worldwide could be prevented with improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene and better water resource management," a second "Poverty Matters Blog" post states.

USAID's World Water Day page states that "[w]omen and girls are disproportionately impacted by the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation," often spending "hours a day collecting water, foregoing other economic and education opportunities, and girls often drop out of school because of the lack of adequate sanitation" (3/22). 

Investments In Water, Sanitation Services Provide Economic, Non-Economic Benefits, Report Says

To mark the day, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report describing the benefits that investments in water and sanitation services can have on health, the environment and the economy, the "Poverty Matters Blog" writes (Tremolet, 3/22).

Despite the positive outcomes of investments in water and sanitation services, "[t]he full magnitude of the benefits of water services is seldom considered," the executive summary of the report states. The report says "[n]on-economic benefits" associated with improved access to water and sanitation can be "difficult to quantify" and "benefit values are highly location-specific (depending on the prevalence of water-related diseases or the condition of receiving water bodies, for example) and cannot be easily aggregated" (3/17).

"People in developing countries can least afford to treat water-borne disease. Governments and the international community need to overcome the annual shortfall of US$10-30 billion to meet the water and sanitation infrastructure goals implied by the Millennium Development Goals," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said, according to an OECD press release. "For governments, basic water supply and sanitation services are a good investment, with the savings outstripping costs by seven-fold," Gurria added.

The report suggests "policy makers, especially those in Ministries of Finance and Economy, develop investment strategies, based on cost-benefit analysis, and implement the polluter-pays and the user-pays principles," according to the OECD press release (3/22).

Middle East, North African Countries Rank Lowest In Water Security Listing

According to a ranking released Tuesday by the British risk analysis group Maplecroft, Mauritania, Kuwait and Jordan have the least water security, which could lead to shortages in the Middle East and North Africa that could contribute to unrest and possibly higher oil prices, Reuters reports.

The report, which reviewed about 160 nations, urged businesses "to take more account of water security in investment decisions," the news service writes. Egypt, Israel, Niger, Iraq, Oman and the United Arab Emirates were also listed as having insecure water supplies, while Sweden, Guyana, Canada and Russia ranked as having the most secure supplies (Doyle, 3/22).

Entrepreneurs Working To Solve Water Problems

In a related story, the New York Times examines how entrepreneurs are working on new ways to tackle water issues.

"Historically, water's definition as a common good, publicly owned and closely regulated, has made entrepreneurs and venture capitalists reluctant to get involved," the newspaper writes. "But that is changing with the growing awareness of the challenges of climate change and energy supply." The article describes several initiatives designed to attract investors and entrepreneurs to water innovation (Gies, 3/21).

    http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


    The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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