March 13, 2012 10:06 ET

Better Resource Management Needed to Avert Water Conflict

MARSEILLE, FRANCE--(Marketwire - March 13, 2012) - On the eve of the sixth World Water Forum, the global conservation organization WWF has released new analysis of the reality of water conflicts and necessary actions to avoid a future marred by so-called "water wars".

"The World Water Forum is an opportunity for policymakers to take action to safeguard the resource on which all life depends. History has shown that cooperation is the preferred and predominant response to water scarcity, but cooperation takes strong leadership," said Martin Geiger, Freshwater Director for WWF-Germany, which conducted the analysis.

From 12-17 March, 140 ministerial delegations will convene in Marseille to discuss a host of issues related to freshwater. Only 0.3 per cent of the world's freshwater is readily available for human use, and 60 per cent of this is found in nine countries: Brazil, Russia, China, Canada, Indonesia, India, Columbia, the Democratic Republic Congo and the United States.

As the global population continues to grow, demand from agriculture, the energy and hydropower industry, other business sectors and household use is placing unsustainable stress on freshwater systems. Climate change exacerbates this, making water availability more unpredictable and causing more frequent, widespread droughts and floods. Water scarcity affects at least 2.7 billion people for at least one month each year, according to another recent report from WWF, the University of Twente, Water Footprint Network and The Nature Conservancy.

"An intensification of the global water crisis will raise public health costs, derail economic development, aggravate ecological problems, and cause grave social and geo-political tensions, potentially leading to conflicts," said Geiger, summarizing the WWF analysis.

WWF recommends that delegates to the World Water Forum push their governments to sign the UN Watercourses Convention. The Convention will guarantee a fair inter-governmental management of water systems that cross international boundaries and is crucial to avoid or arbitrate future water conflicts.

Until the Convention is in force, governments should develop and sign new transboundary water agreements and enforce existing ones. In addition, developing and implementing sustainable water allocation plans at the basin and sub-basin levels should be given high priority.

Political and business decisions relating to food, water and energy security should be made on the basis of coherent information and policy options developed jointly by experts in the agriculture, trade, energy, climate and water sectors. Equally important, investment is needed in stronger water management institutions that can gather data, provide robust technical advice and implement those decisions.

Conflicts of interest in the use of water resources are unavoidable now and in future; these actions by governments, industries and research will help to prevent or mitigate escalation into complex and violent conflicts.

About WWF

WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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