UN World Water Day 2012
Water is essential for life and an important resource to virtually all economic activities, including food production, energy and industrial outputs. Clean water is an indispensable natural resource for a healthy life for humans and for freshwater ecosystems and, therefore, demands careful management. Water has been in the forefront this month with the 6th World Water Forum, which took place in Marseille, France, last week, on the theme ‘Time for Solutions.’ Since today is World Water Day, 'Handpicked and Carefully Sorted' is focusing on water, with some important facts and figures and highlighting reports published this month, from the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Some important water facts and figures

  • It takes between 2000 and 5000 litres of water to produce the food consumed by one person in a single day.
  • So no wonder that, of all our economy’s activities, agriculture consumes the most water, being responsible for 70% of worldwide consumption.
  • Meat production is particularly costly to water resources because the livestock drinks and eats cereals grown using water. As a result, it takes 5 to 20 times more water to produce 1kg of meat than 1kg of cereal.

Reports from the EEA and UNESCO

The EEA has released a report entitled ‘Towards efficient use of water resources in Europe.’ It is the first in a series of five reports (four thematic assessments and one synthesis report) that EEA will publish in 2012 to provide policy-relevant information to support the development of the 'Blueprint to safeguard Europe's waters'. The report focuses on resource efficiency, its role in promoting sustainable water management, and the role of technical and economic tools in this context. It makes the case for an integrated water management, starting with better implementation of existing legislation. It also offers measures, tools and ideas on how to use the markets to enhance water-resource efficiency, as well as a section on water footprint assessment and life cycle analysis.

Focusing on water resources globally, UNESCO's World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) published The UN World Water Development Report 4, which comprises 3 volumes entitled: Managing Water under Uncertainty and RiskKnowledge Base and Facing the Challenges. The United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR) series has shown, since its first edition in 2003, how decisions made in every realm of life and work can have an impact on our water resources.  Although it offers a broad global picture, it focuses particularly on the situation in developing countries, where the need for better infrastructure and water governance is highest. With the report, WWAP is aiming to show where systems are failing, and to provide the information needed for efficient and effective capacity-building throughout the world. Case studies are a significant part of each WWDR report and collectively, they illustrate the challenges faced by policy-makers and water managers around the globe, and how they are responding to them.

How can we help to save water – our most precious resource?
Here are some simple starting steps:

  • Turn off the taps when not in use.
  • Detect and fix water leaks around premises and homes.
  • Re-use water for activities that do not require clean water.
  • Eat less meat by having meat-free days or become a vegetarian for at least a period of time. If more people became vegetarians, there would be less demand for meat and, eventually, supply would reduce too and so would agricultural water use. An organisation called ‘one drop’ provides data on the water footprint of our everyday foods. For example, approximately 500L of water is required to produce 100 g of cheese; 1755L to produce one sausage and 70L to produce one apple.
  • Cook only the right amount of food: every food thrown away is water wasted, which could have fulfilled other needs.
  • And one for governments: implement legislation with regard to pollution control and efficient water use to all sectors of the economy.

Everybody should be able to stop water wastage, as long as we keep in mind that while we’re taking water availability for granted, there are regions of the world where access to clean water is so limited that people, especially children, are dying of diseases acquired due to the lack of potable water.

Be also aware that water functions as the link between the climate system and human society; most natural catastrophes are water related, e.g. floods and droughts. If we manage water we can, to a large extent, manage climate variability and thus also be better prepared for climate change.

Link to EEA report Towards efficient use of water resources in Europe.

Link to UNESCO’s WWDR page.

Link to UN World Water Day website.

Link to summary of World Water Forum 2012

Link to One Drop.

Link to official opening ceremony by coordinating agency for this year's World Water Day, FAO site.

For subscribers of the CAB Abstracts database, searching Cabdirect using the terms "water resources" and "water pollution" returned over 48,000 records, including 758 full text records. From this search, 6,757 records were added to the database in the past year, 2011-12.

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