UN-Water conference Zaragoza: Economic growth both blessing and curse
Without water, no food, no energy, no industry, no natural resources. Water is essential for economic growth. But economic growth creates a pressure on water resources. "This threatens the water security for human and nature", water resources specialist Richard Connor warned at the UN-Water conference 2015, in Zaragoza, Spain. Yet economic growth plays a crucial role in the improvement of water supply and sanitation services.
Senior Policy Advisor Niels Vlaanderen of the Dutch ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, contributed to the conference addressing the issue of preparedness for extreme weather events. Both on too little water (drought) and too much water (floods). "Globally 90 percent of all natural disasters are water-related. Wise investments in prevention and preparedness pays", said Vlaanderen.
The 2015 UN Water conference Zaragoza took place from 15 - 17 January 2015.Richard Connor preludes on the publication of this year's World Water Developmenr Report in March.
Balancing water supply and demand
Richard Connor is lead author of the annual UN World Water Development Report and is currently writing the new 2015 edition. This edition will appear on World Water Day (22 March) focusing on this year's theme Water & Sustainable Development.
According to Connor the key role for water management is to relieve the immense pressure on water resources. "We must seek a balance in water supply and water demand and break out of unsustainable pathways ".
The UN Water conference in Zaragoza traditionally kicks off the annual UN theme for World Water Day. Over 350 experts from around the world came to Zaragoza to exchange their views on this year's theme.
However, this year the conference paid more attention to the nr.6 water goal of the UN's post 2015 sustainable development goals (SDG).
In September the United Nations is to adopt this new goal. The global water sector faces a huge task ahead.
Universal access to water and sanitation
The nr.6 water goal includes universal access to water and sanitation by 2030. The costs of this target could be as high as 400 billion dollars. The conference made clear that it will be difficult to reach the remaining 780 million people without access to safe drinking water. Discussions evolved on the high last miles costs for piped water supply in rural areas and how to make poor citizens pay for improved water services.
Facing more extreme weather events
Extreme hydrological variability is one of the barriers for economic growth. Too much or too little water can have a big impact. Governments should be aware of water-related risks, Dutch water expert Niels Vlaanderen warned.
Setting the stage for the session on water governance he presented his audience six messages:
● climate change exacerbates extremes in hydro-meteorological events, increasing both frequencies and impacts of water-related disasters.
● disaster risk reduction, water resources management and climate adaptation should no longer be treated as separate topics.
● more data and better tools for risk assessment are ready for use and need to be more widely deployed to identify and prioritize actions.
● risk reduction, preparation and prevention are sensible investments that pay off in terms of reduced loss of life, avoided damage, and long-term economic growth and stability.
● risk prevention should be integrated with long-term planning, allowing communities and decision makers to identify and exploit opportunities for synergies with planned investments.
● uncertainties are no excuse for inaction: uncertainties are inherent in long-term planning and should be accounted for in a comprehensive, flexible and adaptive approach.
See video recordings of the three day conference on the website 2015 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference.
UN Office - International Decade for Action 'Water for Life' 2005-2015
+34 976 72 42 20