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Symposium 2010

Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons

The Challenge

Water is one of our basic resources, but it is often in short supply not only for human use but also for ecological systems. While in some countries groundwater resources still are abundant and readily available for development, in others depletion due to overdrafting, water-logging, salination as well as pollution cause severe problems.

In addition, the uneven distribution of water (and population) among regions has made the adequate supply critical for a growing number of countries. Rapid population growth and an increasing consumption of water per capita have aggravated the problem.

This tendency is likely to continue as water consumption for most uses is projected to increase by at least 50% by 2025 compared to 1995 level. One additional reason for concern is (anthropogenic) climate change. Climate model simulations suggest that changes in precipitation patterns, intensity and extremes, as well as shifts in seasonal runoff will increase the unevenness in water availability further.

Suitable adaptation strategies for sustainable development will differ between regions and sectors. Strategies that are appropriate for the industrial sector might not be that appropriate for agriculture, the largest consumer of water. Also, suitable approaches for developing regions might be unsuitable for developed regions.

  • Which adaptation strategies are most likely to be successful in regions that will be hit most severely by climate change? How could these strategies be implemented?
  • Could the import of water-intensive products constitute one solution for water-short countries to preserve domestic water resources? What would be crucial for such a strategy to be successful?
  • How do management techniques and water-use policies have to be designed to foster sustainable water use?
  • What is the role of business and how can business help alleviating the problem? How can business be incentivised to do so?
  • Which would be the appropriate institutional level for bringing about adaptation – regional, national, or international?
  • How do institutional arrangements have to look like to facilitate the implementation of effective adaptation measures?

    Solutions

    Solution
    Symposium 2010

    Put a price on water to promote efficient use and allocation.

    Put a price on water to promote efficient use and allocation.

    Put a price on water to promote efficient use and allocation.

    Polity
    Solution
    Symposium 2010

    Address the problem of land grabs in Africa by strengthening the relevant countries’ governance. Promote anticorruption policies in these countries through foreign aid and assistance from NGOs.

    Address the problem of land grabs in Africa by strengthening the relevant countries’ governance. Promote anticorruption policies in these countries through foreign aid and assistance from NGOs.

    Address the problem of land grabs in Africa by strengthening the relevant countries’ governance. Promote anticorruption policies in these countries through foreign aid and assistance from NGOs.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2010

    Bring stakeholders together to make decisions on water management at the river basin level.

    Bring stakeholders together to make decisions on water management at the river basin level.

    Bring stakeholders together to make decisions on water management at the river basin level.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2010

    Educate people, especially children, about water conservation.

    Educate people, especially children, about water conservation.

    Educate people, especially children, about water conservation.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2010

    Increase water storage to combat the effects of climate change.

    Increase water storage to combat the effects of climate change.

    Increase water storage to combat the effects of climate change.

    Polity, Business
    Solution
    Symposium 2010

    Promote transparency and awareness of businesses and consumers by establishing useful indicators, such as “water footprinting.”

    Promote transparency and awareness of businesses and consumers by establishing useful indicators, such as “water footprinting.”

    Promote transparency and awareness of businesses and consumers by establishing useful indicators, such as “water footprinting.”

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2010

    Implement benchmarking of the best practices of water conservation techniques. Estimate and disseminate the cost of information about water management technologies.

    Implement benchmarking of the best practices of water conservation techniques. Estimate and disseminate the cost of information about water management technologies.

    Implement benchmarking of the best practices of water conservation techniques. Estimate and disseminate the cost of information about water management technologies.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society

    Proposals

    Proposal
    Symposium 2010

    Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons

    Shift the focus in water management away from technical solutions like building dams and pipelines. Suitable adaptation strategies for managing water scarcity will differ between regions and sectors. ...

    Shift the focus in water management away from technical solutions like building dams and pipelines. Suitable adaptation strategies for managing water scarcity will differ between regions and sectors. China for example has started a huge project including the construction of pipelines to sustain water supplies for households and industry in the growing Beijing area. Where appropriate, this might be a solution for other countries at different scales as well. However, taking into account the substantial inefficiencies due to evaporation, likely adverse environmental side effects, high investment costs as well as uncertainties related to the amount of water that could

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal
    Symposium 2010

    Water storage: an insurance against climate change

    Agriculture uses about 70% of the available water resources in many countries.  Increasing competition for water suggests that a gap between supply and demand will emerge by 2030 given current rates ...

    Agriculture uses about 70% of the available water resources in many countries.  Increasing competition for water suggests that a gap between supply and demand will emerge by 2030 given current rates of economic development and water usage. In India this gap has been predicted to be as high as 50%.  Climate change threatens to increase temperatures and evaporation, shorten wet seasons and intensify storms. As a response to these factors, that will impact all water users, it is imperative that we investigate to what extent and by what methods we can increase water storage. Countries like the USA and Australia store approximately 5000-6000

    Polity, Business
    Proposal
    Symposium 2010

    Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons

    Manage and increase productivity of the full water resource Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater. On a global average, almost two third of the ‘blue’ water withdrawn for irrigation fr ...

    Manage and increase productivity of the full water resource Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater. On a global average, almost two third of the ‘blue’ water withdrawn for irrigation from rivers, reservoirs and aquifers is lost before reaching the field and boosting crop production. While this situation can be improved by funding and implementation of more efficient irrigation systems and better maintenance of existing systems, there are huge, largely underexplored potentials for improving the use of ‘green’ water (precipitation stored in the soil) particularly in rainfed agriculture, e.g. by techniques of soil conservation and rainwater harvesting. Unlocking such

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal
    Symposium 2010

    Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons

    Plan for a water resilient economy Who speaks for the commons? In that sense do we assume the commons is us or the resource from which we over-draw? Water is often decoupled from major debates – fro ...

    Plan for a water resilient economy Who speaks for the commons? In that sense do we assume the commons is us or the resource from which we over-draw? Water is often decoupled from major debates – from climate, the green economy, energy security and the MDGs, yet water literally underpins our societies, our food and energy systems, our health and our economies. When water stops flowing, life literally grinds to a halt. The maintenance of key river processes such as environmental flows and connectivity, we argue are the foundation on which water security is built. Compromising these basic elements of

    Polity, Business, Civil Society