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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

Environmental flows – for nature and humans

A Cucapá Native American watches the remains of the Colorado river once it crosses the border from the US to Mexico.  With permission of Peter McBride

In the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) we defined sustainable supply as natural renewal minus environmental flows. Already in 2010, annual withdrawals exceeded sustainable supply by more than 300 km3 per year, to a large extent at the expense of surface and underground water that should stay reserved for the environment.

Eight mighty rivers running dry over long periods during one year, as well as rapidly shrinking lakes like Aral and Chad - mostly as a result of overuse for irrigation, are a visible testimony to this fact.

Environmental flows are defined as “the quality, quantity, and timing of water flows required to maintain the components, functions, processes, and resilience of aquatic ecosystems which provide goods and services to people” Three major components of environmental flow are ecologically important: low flows, high flow pulses, and flood events. Each of the components supports specific ecological functions and may be quantified in terms of magnitude, timing, duration, frequency and rate of change.

Water overuse cutting into such environmental flows hits nature – it has a negative impact on wetlands, on biodiversity, on wildlife and landscape, among others.

A water-secure world for everyone: a shared responsibility

Word of thanks after the speech of the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Didier Burkhalter

On 9 October 2014, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Didier Burkhalter joined the Creating Shared Value Forum 2014 organised by Nestlé and UNCTAD to deliver the closing address. With his permission, I post his important speech (also on YouTube, starting after 1 hour 09’ 40’’), as usual with an invitation to comment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When astrophysicists look for traces of life in the outer space, they look for water. Water is life. Water is a finite resource, which cannot be substituted. Without water there is no health, no food, no energy, no social and economic development, no security – no life.

Today, we are moving dangerously towards a world without enough fresh water.

Population growth, urbanisation, a growing global middle class and changes in production and consumption patterns – all these trends are directly impacting our water resources and related ecosystems. Climate change adds to the challenge by increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

The problem is not only one of over use. Diminishing water resources are also threatened by pollution. Every day, two million tonnes of sewage and waste are discharged directly into the world’s aquatic ecosystems.

The 2014 Creating Shared Value Global Forum: Water

With Elhad As Sy, Secretary-General IFRC, Maria Cattaui (moderator) and Margaret Catley-Carlson on the panel

Creating Shared Value (CSV) begins with the understanding that for our business and our shareholders to prosper over the long term, the communities we serve must also prosper, through actions that substantially address a social or environmental challenge. At Nestlé, we focus on three areas - rural development, nutrition and last but not least, water. In all three areas our efforts are about concrete initiatives on our own and in partnerships, but obviously, public policy dialogue is also an essential part of the concept.

On an annual basis we invite stakeholders to stimulate thinking around how business can deliver on this concept of CSV. The last meeting of this series on 9 October 2014 was co-organised by Nestlé and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

I took part in the water session; below is the transcript of some of my remarks pointing to the urgency of this problem. If you would like to watch the full session it is available here.

World Food Day 2014: on water and food

Water for irrigation: a falaj in the mountains of Oman

On the occasion of World Food Day 2014 I gave an interview on water and food. You can find it here.

Not only on World Food Day, we should remember that access to sufficient food (calories and proteins) and nutrition (micronutrients, balance, etc.) remains an issue for hundreds of millions of people in the world.

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.