Turning on the Tap …

This week – for the first time since the United Nations adopted a resolution affirming the fundamental human right to water and sanitation in July – representatives of governments, the private sector, NGOs and academia are gathered at a major international water event, the Stockholm World Water Week.

Ensuring access to clean water for everyone is one of the most critical challenges facing our global community. It is a complex goal, but one that must remain a core focus if we are to avoid severe shortages, social unrest and needless deaths in the decades to come.

(I know … you know what’s coming don’t you?)

All week long I’ll be featuring water-related content from myself and guest bloggers looking at topics such as the right to water and pollution in China, as well as a running blog-commentary from Alex McIntosh who is in Stockholm attending the event! (For more on Mr. McIntosh’s experience, click here.)

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“Kick-Off to World Water Week:  Stockholm, Sweden (9/5/10)”

(posted by Alex McIntosh, founder, Ecomundi Ventures)

The annual World Water Week meeting began Sunday in Stockholm, Sweden.  Organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), it brings together experts, practitioners, decision makers and leaders from around the globe to exchange ideas, foster new thinking and develop solutions to today’s toughest water challenges.

Water was once overshadowed by carbon/climate but has risen to the top of the agenda for public, non-profit, and the private sectors.  Three (of the many) drivers for the increased attention:

  • Water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries, and 18 per cent in developed countries (UNEP, 2007)
  • By 2030, 47% of the world population will be living in areas of high water stress. (OECD 2008)
  • Increasing regulation of and social scrutiny on corporate water use

Overall, more than 2,500 people are attending the conference this year, representing 135 nations and some 200 convening groups such as the UN.

Private sector presence at World Water Week has grown over the twenty years since the conference inception.  While accounting for just over 10% of the total attendance, large corporations in particular are increasingly utilizing World Water Week to hold strategic dialogues with civil society around key water challenges (Nestle, Coca-Cola, SAB Miller, Unilever, etc as part of the CEO Mandate), and for announcing major public initiatives to showcase their efforts to use water more sustainability (ITT).

The week-long conference program reflects the larger water issues playing out across the planet:  diverse, large in scope but local in flavor, and increasingly requiring the collaboration of the public and private sectors to succeed.  We will keep you updated as the conversation in Stockholm unfolds this week.

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