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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

Smart water management to address the crisis

This year’s WEF Global Risks Report has again warned us that the water crisis is becoming more and more real, acute and severe.

In 2010, the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) that I am chairing presented an estimate of 4,500 cubic kilometres of global water withdrawals for human use annually. In the meantime, by 2015, these withdrawals have increased to an estimated 5,000 cubic kilometres. Sustainable supply remained at 4,200 cubic kilometres.

By 2030, without a substantial improvement in water management, this figure could be close to 7,000 cubic kilometres, an increase driven by growth in population and prosperity. If we want to avoid a much more severe water crisis in future, we will have to find ways to reduce freshwater withdrawals by 40% compared to this status quo extrapolation.

Addressing the global water crisis: the 2030 Water Resources Group

The just-published 2015 Global Risk Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is a reminder, and stark warning, that we use far more water than what is sustainably available.

According to the report, water scarcity is the biggest economic and societal risk for the next ten years. The aim of 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) that I am chairing is to respond to this risk.

10 years of in-depth water discussions at the WEF in Davos

The just-published 2015 World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk Report establishes water shortage and water overuse as the biggest risk for the global community; for the fourth consecutive year it is ranked among the top three challenges. This is an outcome of ten years of in-depth discussions around and within the WEF, creating the necessary awareness and also leading to concrete initiatives and partnerships for solutions, such as the 2030 Water Resources Group that I am chairing.

Over the ten years, I made personally sure that the issue was not forgotten. And thanks to strong support from Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, the subject is now well established on the agenda of WEF Annual Meetings and in the WEF work during the year.

Water overuse – at the top of the 2015 WEF global risk ranking

For four years, World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk Reports have identified water as one of the three most important challenges worldwide; this year, for the first time, it has moved to the top, as the biggest societal and economic risk for the next ten years.

The report assesses risks that are global in nature and have the potential to cause significant negative impact across entire countries and industries.

Global risks from overuse and shortage, poor water infrastructure and management came out on top – not as problems outlined by models and simulations that start from a diversity of assumptions; they are already facts today and are rapidly getting worse.

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.