Saturday, September 8, 2012

World Water Week - The Twitter Verdict

The World Water Week conference in Stockholm put the water-food-energy nexus front and centre in how we as a global community confront water security. More and more we are seeing not just discussion but also action on water scarcity reflecting this nexus thinking.
The World Food Programme (@WFP) summed up this nexus approach very simply: "No Water, No Food Security." Population expansion, the rise of the global middle classes and the change in diet that goes hand-in-hand with this increased wealth will place ever greater pressure on our agricultural systems. The OECD (@OECD) reminded us of the scale of that challenge: "The major user of water is agriculture, facing the challenge of producing almost 50% more food by 2030".
So what are the solutions?
Janez Potočnik (@JanezPotocnikEU), European commissioner for the environment, pointed to reducing food waste as "the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources", with Conservation International (@ConservationOrg) adding that "25% of the water we use worldwide is used to grow food that NOBODY eats".@UNFAO reinforced the point: "the food waste in North America and Europe could feed all of the world hungry 3 times over". Indeed a lot of food grown never even makes it on to the plate because of poor harvesting techniques and storage, insufficient cooling facilities and wider inadequate infrastructure.
Waste must be reduced and not only food waste, but direct water waste too. The US Green Building Council (@USGBC) used World Water Week to remind us that "If 1% of US homes replaced older toilets w/ an@EPAwatersense toilet, we'd save enough electricity to power 43K homes for 1 month". Again, nexus thinking is evident with the link between water and the energy needed to pump it to our homes made clear. In the US, moving, heating and treating water accounts for 13% of all the electricity generated.
Water also needs to be conserved in the way in which we grow food. In response to Guardian Sustainable Business' twitter challenge,@africanscribe pointed out that "Irrigation consumes > 50% of South Africa's water" calling for "more investment in rainwater harvesting technology". Having crunched the numbers for our own business in South Africa, we know that 98.3% of the water used in the making of our products relates to the cultivation of the raw materials. We know that by working with local farmers, on the ground, using tools such as measuring soil moisture, leak detection and irrigation scheduling it is very possible to cut water use and electricity bills with less pumping required. Again, nexus thinking applies.
To effect change, the thinking has to be applied at the local level as@cfishman pointed out: "It's vital to ask: Is there a "global water crisis"? My answer: No. We have 1,000 local crises". Picking up on an International Water Institute (@IWMI_Water_News) report,@NEPADWater emphasised the need for the local approach, "Local irrigation linked to food security", and @VossFoundation highlighted "Small-scale irrigation could provide a billion-dollar boost to household revenues in Sub-Saharan". Irrigation, in a sustainable manner, is a vital development too and with "Over 300 million people living in rural China have no access to safe drinking water" according to the World Bank (@WBPubs), we should not lose sight of this quality.
UNICEF (@UNICEF) underlined the scale of the challenge reminding us that although "From 1990-2010, <2b gained access to improved sources of drinking #water", "783m are still without access". NGOs, business and governments have to work together to tackle water security. The good news coming from World Water Week is that the evidence of on-the-ground collaboration is growing. Partners are rolling up their sleeves and getting on with it. @WWF summed this up well: "Back to the office after #wwweek. Time to turn all the talk about the "nexus" into action". Or, as Peter Bakker of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (@wbcsd) put it: "Get your hands&feet dirty".

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