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NEWS: UN Water chair in Ottawa this week

Zafar Adeel

Zafar Adeel

The Ottawa Citizen reports, “Zafar Adeel, chair of UN Water, which coordinates water-related efforts for 28 United Nations organizations” is in Ottawa this week for a major conference.

A Canadian Water Network media release states, “Some 300 scientists, policy-makers, economists and other stakeholders (will) convene in Ottawa Mon. Feb. 28 to Thurs. March 3 for an international meeting… showcasing latest world research findings as well as proven news tools, ideas and best practices for optimizing water management.” They highlight, “Canada’s water experts are now increasingly needed to help countries elsewhere brace for drought, flood and unsafe water problems looming on a 15 to 20 year horizon.” And without intended irony they state, “Canada is well positioned to mobilize and share worldwide its extensive experience gained stewarding 9% of the world’s freshwater supply.”

It’s not clear from the media release or the newspaper article the degree to which the United Nations General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council recognition of the right to water and sanitation will inform the proceedings of the conference.

Still, their media release provides some interesting information:

“Within a single generation, recent studies show, water demand in many countries will exceed supply by an estimated 40%, with one-third of humanity having half the water required for life’s basics.”

“Annual global trade in ‘virtual water’ today is said to exceed 800 billion tonnes, the equivalent of 10 Nile Rivers. …Virtual water describes the volume ’embedded’ in a product during its production. A desktop computer, for example, requires 1.5 tonnes (1,500 litres) of water; a pair of denim jeans up to 6 tonnes; a kilogram of wheat 1 tonne; a kilo of chicken 3 to 4 tonnes; a kilo of beef 15 to 30 tonnes.”

“In flood-prone places, meanwhile, catastrophic flood events normally expected once a century – similar to those recently witnessed in Pakistan and Australia – can now be expected every 20 years instead. …A number of northern British Columbia communities – the town of Smithers, for example – have endured ‘1 in 100 year’ floods three times in the past two decades – disasters that underscore the need for new techniques and ideas in municipal planning and road design.”

“The financial world is looking ahead to the bottom-line impacts of a water-constrained world. Institutional investors managing tens of trillions of dollars are pointedly asking businesses for data about their vulnerability to potential water supply difficulties.”

“The anticipated crises create a fast-growing need for technologies and services to discover, manage, filter, disinfect and/or desalinate water, improve infrastructure and distribution, mitigate flood damage and reduce water consumption by households, industry and agriculture – the biggest water user by far at 71% worldwide.”

The media release is at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-02/cwn-crg022211.php.