Water Security is National Security

Water resources and how they are managed impact almost all aspects of society and the economy, in particular health, food production and security, domestic water supply and sanitation, energy, industry, and the functioning of ecosystems. Under present climate variability, water stress is already high, particularly in many developing countries, and climate change adds even more urgency for action. Without improved water resources management, the progress towards poverty reduction targets, the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development in all its economic, social and environ- mental dimensions, will be jeopardized. UN Water.Org

Friday, October 17, 2014

Water as a single post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goal

We need a single post-2015 Sustainable Economic and Social Development Goal for Water with four concrete targets responding to the major challenges: access to truly safe water for basic needs, access to decent sanitation, primary treatment of all wastewater (see my previous post), and, last but not least, rebalancing overdraft of freshwater.

I made my proposals already on several occasions and would like to use this platform to bring them to the attention of an even wider group of people. They are based on a broad consultationearlier this year and then further developed in many discussions with persons from civil society, private sector and government. A single goal for water with four concrete targets as part of the Post-2015 UN Sustainable Development GoalsThe discussion on the post-2015 Goals is ongoing both in New York and in capitals of UN member countries.

The proposals of a single water goals with the four targets as specified below need, if you agree with them, your support whenever and wherever possible

1) Water as a human right – implement the universal accesses to safe drinking water bringing ‘improved’ water to all people by 2025 at the latest, with a parallel focus and longer-term perspective (i.e., beyond 2025) on quality, i.e., moving from an ‘improved’ water perspective to ‘truly safe drinking water’, and on bringing this water actually to the homes of individual citizens. While it is essential for achieving this target that infrastructure costs (including capital costs) are fully covered, water to cover the very basic needs must be free for those who are unable to pay

2) Accelerate the provision of access to improved sanitation to at least 120 million additional people per year, aiming for universal access before 2050. Data on actual improvements achieved show that this is realistically possible; with further strengthened efforts political leaders might aim for even more ambitious targets.

3) Adequate treatment of all municipal and industrial wastewater prior to discharge by 2030. Best practice initiatives and learning to reduce groundwater pollution by agricultural production (traditional, organic, etc.). According to FAO only about half of the 285 cubic-kilometres of wastewater are treated, and only some 10% of treated municipal wastewater is directly re-used. This means there is potential here to close the gap – as outlined in my previous post here on LinkedIn

4) Finally, yet fundamentally, we must address the water overdraft, i.e., bringing freshwater use/waste (initially measured as withdrawals) back into line with sustainable supply (natural renewal minus environmental flows). Without change in the way we are using water today, we risk shortfalls of up to 30% of global cereal production due to water scarcity by 2030. First priority must be on this target 4, if we can’t overcome water overuse, water shortage will impact all other targets above. Cost effective and comprehensive actions are needed, combining the supply side and demand side by increasing the efficiency of water use and managing wastewater as a reusable resource. The 2030 Water Resources Group that I am chairing, a disruptive public-private partnership, is participating in these efforts. But it is an initiative that still needs more support – we are looking for more companies and other stakeholders to join.

Need for reality checks of goals, need for good management, and need for a broader policy context.

All of these targets need to be checked against reality: we did it with data of improvements of the past. But then it is also about good management of their local implementation, rather than solemn declarations, that is what is most needed in the coming years.

And they need to be put in the context of other policies and urgent policy changes:

  • more efforts to reduce loss and waste of food, again a management task, also with the necessary investment in infrastructure, and more responsibility of consumers in advanced economies;
  • we must further liberalise international trade (of virtual water) so, water intensive staple food, for instance, can be grown in regions where water is abundant;
  • land and other property, but also usage rights, for instance private rights to use water particularly of small farmers must be better protected;
  • and governments must no longer wait and stop mandates and subsidies for biofuels.

Water plays a complex role in society and human life, which makes its management quite challenging. This means further discussion on all the points I’ve made over the past few posts remains necessary. More



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

30 Percent of Singapore's Water Supply is Currently Met by Recycled Water

The South-east Asian island country has a population of 5 million residing on less than 750 square kilometers of land. Whilst known for its strong economy, Singapore is lacking one essential asset -- water.

Water security has long been a national priority in Singapore as half of its current water supplies are imported from neighboring Malaysia. "We are preparing for the day that should the water agreement expire, we should be ready to fulfill our own needs," says Chew Men Leong, Chief Executive of the Public Utilities Board.

The agreement with Malaysia is due to expire in 2061, so the country has time to be ready.

Singapore's strategy for a hydrated nation is four-fold: as well as importation, it includes desalinization plants, efficient catchment of rainwater and recycling of sewage.

Rainwater is collected through a network of drains, canals, rivers, storm water, collection ponds and reservoirs with the aim to catch water across two-thirds of the country. But the real hope lies in the membrane technology to treat wastewater known as 'NEWater', created by the country's public utilities board.

Through a four-step series of barriers and membranes, wastewater is made free of solids, microorganisms, and contaminants resulting in potable water supplies for use by humans and industry.

After one decade, the technology meets 30 percent of Singapore's water needs, with plans to triple volumes by 2060.

"The level of quality we receive from the Public Utility Board meets and exceeds the expectation," explains Jagadish CV, CEO of Systems on Silicon Manufacturing, where the water is used in their processing of silicon wafers. "We are using the water three times before we let it into the drain," he says.

The demand by industry is being further met by a new collaboration with Japanese firm Meiden that will supply factories with recycled industrial water. One and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools of water are currently filtered and treated every day.

The goal is to more cost-effectively treat industrial waste streams in the long run.

Professor Asit Biswas from the Lee Kuan School of Public Policy feels other countries should follow the example set by Singapore and even the current standards can be improved to eventually re-use every last drop of water. More

Source: CNN