World Water Week: Doing More With Less

It’s World Water Week, and officials from around the world are meeting in Stockholm to discuss how to get adequate water and sanitation to the world’s population – even as drought and other environmental problems threaten the global water supply.

The conference organizers explain the problem and what WWW intends to do about it:

For a staggering 2.6 billion people, lack of access to adequate sanitation is a major and daily threat to their health and well-being. This bears tremendous social and environmental costs, of which premature deaths, degradation of living quarters and the environment, and reduced access to education are but a few. These ill effects of inadequate sanitation compromise human dignity and potential and thwart development in communities, individuals and in society at large.

One purpose of the 2008 World Water Week is to increase awareness and stimulate action on the downstream impacts of human activities in a broader sense…  the week aims to find how the complexities surrounding sanitation, water supply, ecosystem management and economic development issues can be planned in a joint context and integrated as connected pieces of the larger global human development puzzle.

Specific topics under discussion include:

  • Preventive Action for Health
  • Sustainable Cities
  • Waste as a Resource
  • Sanitation under Different Climate Conditions
  • Water Afteruse and the Ecosystem Approach
  • Human Behavior and Communication for Desired and Necessary Changes

In a post about the World Water Week, Tori Okner at Triple Pundit highlights one U.S. success in water planning:

Another example of success, although not a prize winner at Word Water Week, is the Great Lakes Commission, a group working to ensure the conservation and strategic development of the Great Lakes Basin. The Commission is a binational agency that exemplifies government, business, and community partnership. They recently won congressional approval for the Great Lakes Compact, legislation creating a mandate for the Commission to represent the eight states involved in economic and environmental issues concerning the Great Lake Basin. While environmental critics question terms of the agreement, it is overwhelmingly lauded as a measure of preservation.

Although the U.S. isn’t facing the kind of water and sanitation crises occurring in other parts of the world, many states and regions are finding their water supplies dwindling even as demands increase. Recent news stories describe some of the ways they’re addressing the issue:

  • In Orange County, California a new facilities purifies wastewater and pumps it into a lake, where it percolates down into the aquifer and is then delivered again to local customers. 
  • Georgia is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling stating that the state needs Congressional approval to draw more water from Lake Lanier, whose waters also supply industries in Florida and Alabama. In the meantime, many Georgia farmers are adopting more efficient irrigation methods that reduce water usage by an average of 17%.
  • Faced with interruptions in once-reliable well-water supplies, Vermont’s legislature has approved a measure that will make the state’s groundwater a public trust.
  • Renegotiation of the compact governing the use of water from the Colorado River basin could result in more water for California, Arizona, and Nevada, and less for Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

As a country, we have two challenges: helping the billions of people who lack adequate water and sanitation get what they need, and improving our own use of a limited but essential resource.

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