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World Water Council
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  • Date submitted: 31 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Submission Document: Download
  • Additional Document:

Contribution of the World Water Council to the Zero Draft of the Rio+20 Outcome Document

IT?S ALL ABOUT WATER

The World Water Council, as was expressed earlier to the Secretary General of the United Nations, considers the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be a political gathering of the highest importance in achieving sustainable world development and stands ready to contribute to all the relevant processes by mobilizing its entire means available. The Council, as the highest level non-governmental entity in water matters, is well positioned through its vast core membership, encompassing technical and scientific organisations, the public and private sectors, as well as development and donor agencies, in addition to ministries, local authorities, and intergovernmental and United Nations bodies, to contribute to the Rio+20 process in an effective manner, in particular as related to the underlying necessity of water?s central role in achieving sustainable development in an interdisciplinary way.

The idea of establishing the World Water Council was born during the International Conference on Water and Environment, organized by the UN system and held in Dublin in 1992 as a contribution to UNCED, with a view towards mobilizing all stakeholders involved in water issues, as a means of solving the emerging water challenges. Ever since its inception, the Council has shaped the global water debate by, inter alia, organizing the series of World Water Fora, the next of which will be held in March 2012 in Marseille, France. This 6th World Water Forum defines itself both as a forum of solutions and as a mechanism to elevate water matters to the level of the Rio+20 process and beyond.

Water connects and does not divide. This is equally true at different scales, whether one talks about transboundary watersheds and aquifers or about the connection between natural and social cycles in general. Water binds them together. Indeed, it is water that cuts through and connects all the Millennium Development Goals, as well as all the impacts of climate variability in addition to many other global drivers. It is, therefore, water that must be given sufficient attention whenever seriously discussing any of the above goals or drivers, whether it be at the political or technical level. Because of this interconnectedness, it is water that is the principal vector for global change impacts and through which promising response strategies could be established in an adaptive manner.

When it comes to the major drivers, of which population change is the most significant, along with its derivatives of land-use change, urbanization and migration, water scarcity will increase, together with an increase in extreme hydrological conditions. Humanity, therefore, will need more storage space to have buffer capacities against the vagaries of extreme flows, whether to face excess water brought by floods or droughts caused by increased aridity. More reservoirs are required for sustainable demand management for populations in flux. Of course, in this process, all the unwanted social and environmental consequences must also be mitigated. Intelligent technology that is respectful of nature offers solutions to do so. Likewise, we need to invest more in the cleanest, most significant renewable energy source: water power. This shows precisely how closely water and energy issues must be linked in the future. Also, river navigation is to be enhanced to curb greenhouse gas emissions of mass transportation.

Water is indeed the engine of sustainable development not only from an environmental point of view but also in examining global challenges from a social point of view. As related to public health, for example, 80% of diseases are water-born or water-related. Half of the hospital beds in the world are occupied by patients with ailments due to the lack of good-quality water. Appropriate sanitation is the key to changing this deplorable situation. Water supply and sanitation, therefore, contribute to a green economy by increasing productivity related to a decrease in water-related illness and by reducing the pollution load on river basins and aquifers. They create jobs and income for unskilled workers, thus reducing poverty in less developed countries. Most importantly, adequate sanitation improves public health by significantly reducing infant mortality. A $1 investment in sanitation yields a $7 cost reduction in public health expenses.
Water is at a turning point in its long history. The time of easy water is definitively over. The delicate balance between freshwater supply and its demand for all uses must evolve due to the global changes that affect the planet. Each country, each city, each community must consume less and manage better.
We are at the dawn of the establishment, everywhere in the world, of demand regulation policies. These policies must indeed guarantee respect in a concrete way for the right to water, as defined by the United Nations General Assembly. They must be supported by three pillars that guarantee equitable and sustainable management of this rarified resource: financing, governance, knowledge.

There is no way to break the vicious circles of poverty unless we invest in water and sanitation. Investments are badly needed in every sphere: political, financial, and educational, as well as in building capacities for the benefit of developing countries. This is a main concern for the Council. The Council stands ready to contribute to this process by mobilizing all its areas of expertise and by working together with everybody to make Rio+20 a truly historical event.
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