Wednesday, March 18, 2009

World Water Forum addresses climate change and security

On Monday, March 16, experts in sanitation, climate change, and development from government, academia, the media and business gathered in Istanbul for the World Water Forum. This week-long conference focuses on how best to achieve water security through developing sanitation systems, addressing climate change and balancing food and biofuel production.

The third edition of the UN World Water Development Report (released every 3 years) was presented in the meeting. It recommended immediate action before water resources become an additional reason for wars. "Water is linked to the crises of climate change, energy and food supplies and prices, and troubled financial markets," the report says. "Unless their links with water are addressed and water crises around the world are resolved, these other crises may intensify and local water crises may worsen, converging into a global water crisis and leading to political insecurity and conflict at various levels."

US specialists, such as Aaron Salzberg, special coordinator for water resources at the State Department, and Brian Richter, director of fresh water programs at the Nature Conservancy, are happy to see the link between climate change and water security. They both note climate change’s intensifying effect on water security due to more frequent and intense water-related disasters as well as unpredictable weather patterns. Director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Geoffrey Dabelko recently said climate change could affect not just drinking water and sanitation, but also the amount of water available for energy production.

Water problems, such as lack of sanitation infrastructure and reliable access to clean water are often worst in developing countries, where water availability and prosperity are closely linked because many of the world’s poorest citizens are reliant on subsistence agriculture for survival. Population growth and climate change are predicted to exacerbate the water security problem; both of these problems are most critical in developing nations.

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