Better urban water management needed

23rd August 2011


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  • Water ,
  • Local government ,
  • Central government ,
  • Food and drink ,
  • Natural resources

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IEMA

Water shortages could damage economic growth and trap billions of people in poverty if infrastructure in cities is not improved, warn experts at the start of World Water Week 2011.

In opening the week-long conference in Stockholm, Anders Berntell, head of the Stockholm International Water Institute, called on governments and policy makers to ensure cities are able to cope with the effects of climate change and increased population density.

“Investments in water infrastructure have not kept up with the pace of urbanisation,” he warned. “Water tends to be undervalued and in many parts of the world weak governance and financially unviable operations threaten water security.

“By 2030, in a business-as-usual scenario, humanity’s demand for water is predicted to outstrip supply by as much as 40%, which would place water, energy and food security at risk, hamper economic development, lead to social and geopolitical tensions and cause irreparable environmental damage in mature and developing economies alike.”

Berntell argues that effective, efficient water management in cities is the key to avoiding disaster in the future and points to London, Beijing and Phnom Penh as good examples of urban centres that have made significant improvements to their water use in recent years.

“With urbanisation come new opportunities. Cities give great economies of scale and provide excellent opportunities for effective infrastructure development, for increased re-use of water and waste, and for more efficient use of water and energy,” he said.

“However, urban water management strategies cannot be limited to the city itself. In order for the solutions to be sustainable, cities need to plan with the whole basin in mind so as not to increase tensions between rural and urban areas and to avoid downstream pollution and environmental degradation.”

Around 2,500 delegates from 130 countries are attending the 21st World Water Week event, entitled “Responding to global changes - water in an urbanising world”.

Throughout the week experts and attendees will debate the challenges in ensuring water supplies in cities and, at the close of the conference, will publish a declaration intended to provide ideas and support to the UN conference on sustainable development to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

Nestlé water winner

International food manufacturer Nestlé will be presented with the Stockholm Industry Water Award during the conference this week in recognition of its achievements in reducing water consumption and waste.

Over the past decade, Nestlé has cut the amount of water used in its food production by 32%, despite increasing overall output by 72%. It has also reduced total waste water discharge by more than 40%.

Nestlé also provides expert training and technical support for 300,000 farmers, to reduce water consumption at the farm level.

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