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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

Is ‘improved’ drinking water always also safe?

This is the third guest post from Asit Biswas. We post it with the permission of the initial publisher of the text, The Business Times, Singapore. Many thanks to The Business Times, and thanks to Asit for once again bringing up a rather thorny issue of ‘improved’ versus ‘safe water’. Other sources come to similar conclusions: According to Aquafed, for instance, at least 1.9 billion people use water that is unsafe and dangerous for their health, while 3.4 billion people use water of doubtful quality, at least from time to time. The questions comes up, therefore, whether for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals it will be enough to continue aiming for ‘improved’ water, or whether we should already now move to the next stage and include truly safe drinking water as one of the targets. Here is Asit’s text.

Business in a changing society: the water challenge

For my 70th birthday this year, a group of friends and colleagues were kind enough to organise a ‘Festschrift’ for me, a book with 29 essays from leaders from politics, academia, civil society and business. They draw a fascinating, multifaceted picture of the quality, speed and nature of the ongoing and often accelerating change taking place in society, technology and markets. Among the authors: Patrick Aebischer; Robert E. Black; Günter Blobel; Lester R. Brown; Vittorio Colao; Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj; Julio Frenk; Francis Fukuyama; Orit Gadiesh; Vitor Gaspar; Ray A. Goldberg; Franz B. Humer; Muhtar Kent; Walter B. Kielholz; Christine Lagarde; Doris Leuthard; Maurice Lévy; Peter Maurer; Luis A. Moreno; Lubna S. Olayan; Michael E. Porter; Benoît Potier; Klaus Schwab; Barbara Stocking; Rex W. Tillerson and Herman Van Rompuy.

Water overuse – falling groundwater tables

Subsidence in major coastal cities due to groundwater pumping.

My last post was about environmental flows – the need for them, and the decreasing volumes of water actually remaining available for nature. This post is about the overuse of groundwater, as underground aquifers suffer even more from overexploitation, i.e., people pumping up groundwater in excess of annual renewal.

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.

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.