An analysis of the economics of water has issued a dire warning that governments must stop providing financial support for the excessive use and extraction of water. Businesses ranging from mining to manufacturing must reform their wasteful practices in order to avert an approaching water catastrophe.
The research is being made public on the day of an important session hosted by the United Nations about water. The authors of the paper suggest that governments should begin managing water as a global common good since the water supplies of the majority of countries are largely reliant on the water resources of their neighbors.
Neglect of Water Resources Leading to Disaster
The Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, Johan Rockstrom, stated that the world’s neglect of water resources was leading toward disaster.
He said, “The scientific evidence is that we have a water crisis. We are misusing water, polluting water, and changing the whole global hydrological cycle, through what we are doing to the climate. It’s a triple crisis.”
The co-chair of the commission, Mariana Mazzucato, added that the world needs a more proactive and ambitious approach to managing water, placing justice and equity at the center of it.
The research calls for seven major changes, including a new approach to global water governance, more investment in water management through public-private partnerships, fair pricing of water, and the creation of “just water partnerships” to help low- and middle-income nations fund water infrastructure projects. The study also recommended repairing freshwater systems like wetlands and stopping water leaks immediately.
Overconsumption of Water Resources
Overconsumption of water is sometimes attributed to the more than $700 billion in subsidies given each year to agriculture and water throughout the world. The report argues that water must be priced properly and calls for the establishment of “just water partnerships” that can mobilize finance for low- and middle-income countries.
The climatic issue and the global food problem are inextricably linked to water’s vital role. Rockstrom stated, “There will be no agricultural revolution unless we fix the water.” He further said, “Behind all these challenges we are facing, there’s always water, and we never talk about water.”
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The report also highlights the inefficiencies in the ways in which water is used, including sewage systems in developed countries.
Rockstrom argues that there are massive innovations required, stating, “It’s quite remarkable that we use safe, fresh water to carry excreta, urine, nitrogen, phosphorus – and then need to have inefficient wastewater treatment plants that leak 30% of all the nutrients into downstream aquatic ecosystems and destroy them and cause dead zones. We’re really cheating ourselves in terms of this linear, waterborne modern system of dealing with waste. There are massive innovations required.”
United Nations Water Summit
The United Nations Water Summit is scheduled to take place in New York City on March 22, and it will be co-chaired by the governments of the Netherlands and Tajikistan.
Although world leaders have been invited, it is anticipated that only a small number will show up, with the majority of nations having ministers or other high-ranking officials in attendance instead.
It has been more than 40 years since the United Nations last convened a meeting specifically to address water, so this conference represents a significant milestone in that regard. Past efforts have been unsuccessful as a result of states’ reluctance to tolerate any sort of international control of the resource in question.
According to Henk Ovink, the Netherlands’ special ambassador for international water issues, the conference is fundamental. He said, “If we are to have a hope of solving our climate crisis, our biodiversity crisis, and other global challenges on food, energy, and health, we need to radically change our approach in how we value and manage water.”
He added, “[This] is the best opportunity we have to put water at the center of global action to ensure people, crops, and the environment continue to have the water they need.”