The World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of national leaders, economists and corporatists met last month in Davos, Switzerland. Before the meeting, a survey was conducted among some 900 leaders in business, politics and civic life that concluded that the most important global risk today is the world water crisis.
According to Circle of Blue, a programme of the Pacific Institute and one of the best web-based sources for water information, this is a major shift in world attention, explained in part by climate and weather phenomena, drought, pollution, and other limits on water that dramatically affect vulnerable populations, be they in California or the American southwest, China, India, southern Europe, South America, or Australia.
Circle of Blue quotes Bob Sandford, chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative, as follows: We did not realize until recently how much our economy and society relied on hydrologic stability.
Well, that is not entirely true. China, for example, has been building massive water transfer systems to move water from areas in the south to the more arid north where drought, industrial irrigation, and flagrant pollution have brought scarcity as well as economic and political crises.
There is a direct link between water abundance and human well-being, between adequate supply and the sustainability of any community, rich or poor. Northern California is a region of great fertility and wealth in the US, entirely dependent on water from the Rocky Mountains distributed by engineered solutions.
Water rationing, inadequate supply at key points in growth of fruit and crops and weak and declining harvests can bring even such a community to its knees. Right here in Kenya there are several communities who have been at war for decades over food and water. Each year the government spends millions of shillings on relief foods for these communities mostly in the north of Kenya and elsewhere.
The problem is not insurmountable. It was caused by our greed and carelessness with our resources and poor policies on how to conserve our resources, adapt to climate change and poor planning.