[Sponsored Report] Securing resources for the collective future

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[Sponsored Report] Securing resources for the collective future


William J. Cosgrove

The Past

The earth provides the resources we need for our growth and development. Our requirements for water to meet our fundamental needs and our collective pursuit of higher living standards, coupled with the need for water to sustain our planet’s fragile ecosystems, make water unique among our planet’s natural resources.

Humans have continued their evolution by developing increasingly sophisticated analyses, tools, technology and institutions to manage the resources of the planet. In the last century the world human population more than tripled while the economy grew more than six times faster. Unfortunately though, a significant part of the population today is composed of people who do not have access to goods and services to meet their basic needs.

The Present

For their survival and development the basic needs of humans are for drinking water, food, shelter, heating and cooling and in employment as a source of income. The provision of these comes from water resources, energy resources and ecosystem.

Water managers have made it possible to meet the needs of most of the seven billion people living today. About 85 percent are adequately nourished even though little progress has been made. On the other hand, about 2.5 million people lack adequate sanitation; 35 million people die each year from water-related diseases; three-quarters of the world’s wastewater flows to the environment without treatment; a billion people have no electricity in their homes and a similar number lack clean fuel for heating and cooking. A billion live in absolute poverty. Meeting the needs of those without these benefits while resources are severely and increasingly stressed on much of the planet, poses many challenges.

Looking to the future the challenge grows. It is commonly accepted that 70 percent more food will be required to eliminate hunger and feed a population of nine billion in 2050. The composition of agricultural production will also change.

Important decisions affecting water management are made outside the water sector and are driven by external, largely unpredictable drivers ? demography, climate change, the global economy, changing societal values and norms, technological innovation, laws and customs, and financial markets.

Global crises in climate change, energy and food supplies and prices, and troubled financial markets are linked to each other and to water resources management. Unless resolved, they may lead to increasing political insecurity and conflict at local and national levels.


The Future

In a desirable future for humanity on the planet, all people would at all times have secure access at all times, and at a price they can afford to and adequate quantity of: safe nutritious food at a price they can afford for a healthy and active life; safe water to meet their household needs; clean energy for their heating, cooling and transportation needs and clean air; and healthy housing and surrounding environment.

This would be supported by a socio-economic system that provides them in return for their efforts with adequate income to purchase these services.

Achieving a multiplicity of goals when they compete for use of the same resources will be more difficult. Through a systematic approach, some avenues that could facilitate the task have been explored. New tools and approaches are becoming available to permit more sophisticated water planning and projections applying systems analysis. Quantified analyses of possible pathways to an agreed desirable future is underway and will make it possible to identify actions that can be taken now in all sectors that are positive and robust under any future scenario and to review these and adapt them as time goes by so as to stay on track to the goal.

by William J. Cosgrove Forum speaker’s key objectives proposal

* William J. Cosgrove received his bachelor and master of engineering and an honorary doctorate of science from McGill University.
He is former vice president of the World Bank and former president of the World Water Council and he served as chairman of the International Steering Committee of the Dialogue on Water and Climate.
He is currently a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and manager of the World Water Scenarios Project of the United Nations World Water Assessment Program.
He has published “Water for Growth and Security in World Water Crisis: Myth or Reality?” among other works.

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