Event Title: The World’s Water: 2006-2007
Sponsors: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Location: 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Date: November 16, 2006
Time: 10:00 AM – 11:30 PM
Approximate number of Attendees: 100
Intern Attending: Ashley Smith
Featured Speaker: Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security
Peter Gleick is co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute as well as the primary author of the biennial report, The World’s Water. In it, Glick examines the state of the world’s water as it relates to numerous interconnected issues such as the environment, conflict, and global health. Over half of the world’s accessible freshwater has already been appropriated by humans and half of all wetlands have been lost to development. One billion have no access to water and 2.5 billion have no sanitary water, which accounts for forty percent of the world’s population. At the same time, water is currently a 400-500 billion dollar a year industry. This year’s publication of The World’s Water focuses on topics including water and terrorism, floods and draughts, and desalination as a means of increasing the water supply.
Unfortunately, when one looks at the issue of water broadly, it seems as though little has changed since the 1990’s. As then, the United States still lacks coherent national and international policies regarding water, there is little public awareness regarding water issues, and there continues to be violence and disputes over water. At the same time however, many successes have been made. There is a growing public concern for water-related issues, there are more ecosystem restoration projects, and there is greater community involvement. Additionally, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals, two of which involve water. While Gleick does not think the world will meet the sanitation goal, the supply goal seems to be attainable. Other progress includes a review and reassessment of U.S. water policies and the implementation of smarter economics. This includes changing to water-savy crops and using new technologies, like UV technology to filter water and drip technology, the latter of which is now accessible to more people.
America today uses less water than it did in 1980. This is in part because there is less room to build new dams, but also because many people today value ecosystem conservation. We have also begun to minimize water usage through advanced technologies. Finally, the nature of the US economy is just naturally less water intensive. For example, there is less reliance on the water-intensive steel industry as we become more technologically-oriented. There is also a stronger awareness today, as evidenced by celebrity participation in the water crisis. Paul Simon has set up the Water for the Poor Act and musicians like Beyonce and Jay-Z have recently performed at an MTV event highlighting the importance of water conservation. These efforts highlight the increased need for awareness and conservation. There are costs for environmental inaction and the issue of water needs to be addressed in order to ensure its continued availability.