Primary School students in Grenada are seen here working
together to promote awareness on water conservation on World Water
Day. Credit: Global Water Partnership
By Inge Kaul
BERLIN, Germany, Mar 20 2020 (IPS)
Water is essential and indispensable for life on earth. We know
that; and many of us have perhaps heard, written and uttered these
words themselves a ‘million’ times.
Therefore, I am astonished and increasingly worried about the
relatively low-level of attention and priority accorded to water at
the practical-political level.
Certainly, quite some attention has been paid to increasing
people’s access to safe drinking water and sanitation services;
and important progress has been achieved in this respect.
However, what will happen to this achievement, in the case of
water scarcity – when pipes run dry? For many people and
countries, an estimated one quarter of the world’s population,
dried-up water pipes are not only a hypothetical risk but already
Analysts warn that the spillovers from water scarcity can be
serious and many.
Agricultural and industrial production, mining and transport
could, for example, be disrupted, economic growth falter, social
tensions, conflict and, even, war be funneled, leading, in turn, to
swelling flows of internal displacement and international
migration. Importantly, while some spillovers may ‘just’ be of
local, national or regional reach others will be worldwide. Just
think of the high volume of so-called virtual water trade.
About 40% of Europe’s water footprint is virtual water, i.e.
water embedded in imported goods, including goods from
Clearly, water stress is a global challenge. It concerns us all,
current and future human generations, animals and plants – the
planet as a whole.
Given these facts and figures, isn’t it odd that policymakers
tend to treat water as, what I call, a second-tier policy issue,
i.e.: as a good (thing) that matters, because it is needed for the
production of desired first-tier policy outcomes, such as wheat,
maize, avocados, bananas, cotton (including cotton clothes), urban
development and road construction, lithium mining, or swimming
pools and other spa-facilities?
Water as an input is in high demand. Many need it; and
forward-looking investors have already obtained water-use rights.
Not only land-grabbing but water-grabbing, too, could soon
intensify, as global warming proceeds.
But global warming is only one driver of water scarcity besides
population growth and increasingly water-intensive production and
consumption patterns. Water, too, is a most complex good and,
importantly, one that is available only in limited supply, even if
we manage its use carefully.
All the more to govern it efficiently and equitable so that it
can meet to basic conditions viz. (i) be there for all and (ii) be
However, who is in charge of water at the national and
international levels? Where is the global intergovernmental water
forum mandated to address water as a global policy issue in its own
right and complexity – a first-tier issue?
And who would be the national counterparts of this global
intergovernmental water forum?
My impression is that we urgently need to build a global water
architecture that deals with the various national and
international, public and private facets of water in a
comprehensive and integrated manner and is endowed with
competencies and resources commensurate with water’s essential
role for life on earth.
Therefore, on 22 March, this year’s World Water Day, let’s
not just pour out more nice words about water as a human right or
that progress towards SDG 6 should be scaled-up and accelerated. We
said it all before. Let’s shift policy gears and translate words
This year’s Water Day is the 27th! In three years, we will
celebrate the 30th anniversary of this Day which was proclaimed in
1992 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and observed, for
the first time, in 1993.
Therefore, my recommendation to concerned UN Member States,
civil society and business is: Please, do consider requesting the
UN Secretary-General to establish a small special commission on
water security to hold worldwide multi-actor and stakeholder
consultations on national and international water governance,
report on its findings in the autumn of 2021 so that delegations
have time in 2022 to prepare for a high-level debate and
decision-making on a new global water governance architecture in
2023 –in honor of the 30th World Water Day.
Aren’t you, too, thirsting for water security, for doing first
This article is to commemorate World Water Day on March
Inge Kaul is Senior Fellow, Hertie School, Berlin
and Non-resident Senior Fellow, center for Global development,
Washington, DC. Comments are welcome and can be sent to: email@example.com
Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Thirsting for Water Security?