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Water Challenge - a blog by Peter Brabeck-Letmathe


I hope this blog will create discussion about the important issue of water use and availability around the world.

Your comments and views are very important and I encourage you to help me build and develop the conversation.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

Chairman Nestlé SA

2014 Stockholm Water Prize for John Briscoe: laudatory speech by Margaret Catley-Carlson

Margaret Catley-Carlson speaking on behalf of The Stockholm Prize Nominating Committee. September 4, 2014

Today’s guest blog was sent to me by Maggie Catley-Carlson. No doubt, she is one of the people with the deepest knowledge of water issues I know, and with the best network in and beyond the water community.

That’s why she was exactly the right person to give the laudatory speech for John Briscoe at the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize ceremony. (See also my own post on this important recognition for John.)

Many thanks to Maggie for allowing me to post her speech on my blog.

Water management – part three: pricing and other cost-effective solutions to address overdraft

4,500 years of sustainable water management in Oman – can we learn from it?

We risk running out of water long before we run out of oil.

But the crisis can still be avoided. For this, water management and potential shortages must be looked at locally first - global averages are not relevant.

Given the nature of the problem, solutions to the water challenge are not possible company-by-company, along supply chains or linked to products (so-called “footprints”). The approach has to be watershed-based, comprehensive, fact-based and cost effective, rather than one based on ideas on one-fits-all global solutions. In the end - water is local.

Water shortage and policies to stimulate savings in China

Traditional Turpan irrigation system

Over the last few weeks I reported about water shortage from overuse in several parts of the world. The rising demand for water and continuing poor management practices are also causing water crises in China. Some time ago I wrote about one of the symptoms, namely disappearing rivers (source). The first official national river census of China estimated that the country had 22,909 rivers, each with a catchment area of at least 100 square km, at the end of 2011. This is less than half of the more than 50,000 rivers estimated by the Government in the 1990s. The official explanation for this shortfall is mainly the “inaccurate estimate of the past, as well as climate change, (and) water and soil loss”. (source) This could explain why some of the rivers have disappeared, but the primary causes are likely to be declining groundwater and river flow levels, widespread deforestation and increasing withdrawal of water from water bodies. Quoting Peter Gleick from the Pacific Institute: “The water challenges in China are far greater than just climate change." (source 

Very recently I came across this post from Liping Jiang, senior irrigation engineer at the World Bank. It describes the situation, and also presents solutions. It was originally posted a couple of weeks ago on the Worldbank water blog. Thanks to Liping for his permission to repost.

Lester Brown on water for food

With Lester Brown, at the World Economic Forum, Davos, 2006

Today, Lester Brown celebrates his 80th birthday. As the founder of the independent Worldwatch Institute, which he set up in 1974, Lester is one of the pioneers of the environmental movement, but one who never lost sight of human needs.

According to Lester, "the biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries." This quote is from his article “Could food shortages bring down civilisation?” published in 2009 in the Scientific American.

For years now, Lester has been recognised as one of the most influential thinkers about – and beyond – sustainability; you can find an overview on some of the awards and prizes he has received for his outstanding work in his biography.

World Water Day 2014: : UN-Water Best Practices Award for Public Utilities Board of Singapore (PUB)

Tasting Singapore’s ‘NEWater’

Some of the best news from this year’s World Water Day was the announcement of the UN-Water Best Practices Award for PUB Singapore, the city-state’s national water agency.

What is so special about Singapore’s water supply? Some months ago, after publishing a book on the topic, Cecilia Tortajada, President of the Third World Centre for Water Management in Mexico was kind enough to write a guest post about PUB for my blog.

Below are a few facts to tell you more about this highly successful organisation.