Asked by Melissa von Mayrhauser
According to Professor Upmanu Lall, Director of the Columbia Water Center and Alan and Carol Silberstein Professor of Engineering. The problem is that there is too much dialogue in a sense about water. It lacks focus on water security. Often, the debate is brought forth through the lens of climate change, or through the lens of water-energy-food, or through the lens of the billion who do not have reliable access to safe drinking water. The drinking water issue gets the most play, and is immediately marginalized into an issue for poor and developing countries. The water-energy-food appears to have more legs lately, both in terms of potential impacts on food prices, and on the constraints posed to energy development. However, none of these issues are seen as water-centered issues, and so despite much talk, other than the drinking water and sanitation story, the core water issue emerges as local and does not stick in terms of international dialogue towards clear-cut solutions. Moreover, water supply, use and what the implications of scarcity are globally not clearly spelled out, even though this is a more poignant and urgent global concern in many ways than climate change. The sad thing is that bringing forth water security is not hard. It requires a serious effort at reducing pollution and increasing efficiency of use, especially in agriculture. The wide variety of subsidies that apply to energy, fertilizer and pesticide use in agriculture are the most significant contributors. So, making this precise and clear, and the implications for governments worldwide to address this issue is a necessary condition. Such an articulation has yet to be made at the level that the climate change dialogue has proceeded. So, getting to this point on water is a prerequisite for a serious international effort to set goals, get a buy in from different governments to rethink the subsidies to promote more effective water use, and to come to an agreement that in addition to being a human right, water is also an economic good, with physical and economic scarcity. Water security is seen as a state and as a national goal, but not often as an international goal. So, putting together a narrative that exposes the global and cross-sectoral impacts of the poor practices and policies worldwide has to be an imperative to move towards action.
Answered by Earth Institute