Increasing pressure on water is a fact

Despite increased political attention, pressure on the world's water resources will increase and must be managed. The driving forces are population growth, more food and better diets, changing consumer preferences and disposable income, trade policies and socio-economic development, in general. The latter, although a driver, also influences society's ability to handle water scarcity and is perhaps the most critical factor for water resources management. Thus, the recent financial crisis will have an impact upon water resources management, although it is difficult to predict exactly how.

Extreme poverty affects approximately 1 billion people worldwide (UN, 2006) who, without reliable access to water, will remain poor. Supplying them and the additional 3 billion people on Earth by 2050 with safe drinking water and sanitation is a water resource, political and financial challenge. Beyond drinking water and sanitation, increased human needs and wants for food, energy and other goods and services will require even more water.

At the international conferences, many of the same messages have been repeated, and high sounding statements of concern have been given. New management approaches (e.g. integrated water resources management) have helped some regions to make progress in water supply and sanitation and enabled food production to keep pace with population growth (malnutrition is still more an issue of distribution); but, in general, progress on the ground has been slow.

This is partly because water issues are not well integrated in other policy and political processes guiding, for instance, trade, agricultural and energy subsidies, economic development, poverty eradication and health. Although the fundamental role that water plays in such sectors offers a potential opportunity (if the role is recognized, the resulting policy changes may affect water resources management positively and substantially), the potential will not be realized as long as planning and policy-making remains fragmented and sector oriented.

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