Pressure Rising on World's Fresh Water Supply

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 14, 2001 (ENS) - All of the more than 1,000 water experts meeting here at the 2001 Stockholm Water Symposium and World Water Week are focused on the fact that the world population will increase by up to three billion in the next 25 years, and each person will need a daily supply of fresh water.

By 2025, about 2.7 billion people, nearly one-third of the projected population, will live in regions facing severe water scarcity, says a new study by the International Water Management Institute. Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with some of the most heavily populated and poorest regions of the world, will be most affected.


Ramona Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon (Photo by Wayne Buchanan courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
Hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute, 33 national and international organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of people and all regions, have gathered to find solutions to the world's water problems. One serious difficulty is the water conflict between agriculture and the environment.

Environmental scientists report that water consumption must be reduced by at least 10 percent in order to protect floods, lakes and wetlands. Agricultural scientists say that water usage within agriculture must increase by 20 percent in order to maintain food supplies and avoid catastrophic starvation.

"The truth is that both sides have a point," said Holland's Crown Prince Willem Alexander, keynote speaker on Monday, at the official opening of World Water Week.


Crown Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands (Photo courtesy Monarchy of The Netherlands)
The prince launched the five year long "Dialogue on Water, Food and Environment," an international scientific and policy coalition created to resolve the dilemma between agricultural production and environmental protection.

"Increasing scarcity, competition and arguments over water in the first quarter of the 21st century will dramatically change the way we value and use water and the way we mobilize and manage water resources," said the prince. "Innovative ways of using this precious commodity have to be found to protect ecosystems and ensure food for the billions on this planet."


Lake Chad, the 4th largest lake in Africa. Located on the southern boundary of the Sahara Desert, it is a freshwater lake, unusual for a desert lake. (Photo from space courtesy U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
The Consortium for Dialogue on Water, Food and Environment, involves eight international groups such as the World Conservation Union and the World Water Council, and the Water Associations Worldwide, comprised of 10 professional water societies such as the Australian Water Association and the European Water Association.

"If current trends continue, the shortage of water will extend well beyond the semiarid and arid regions," says Professor Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the International Water Management Institute headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

"In developing countries, irrigation today accounts for over 80 percent of the water consumed, so that the debate among agriculturists and environmentalists on how to manage water for agriculture is of paramount importance to the very poor," says William Cosgrove, vice president of the World Water Council.


University of California Professor Takashi Asano (Two photos courtesy Stockholm International Water Institute)
Rijsberman, who chairs the Dialogue coalition, says, "This is truly a global challenge. We need to grow more food with less water, meet the growing needs in cities and industry, protect ecosystems for their important role in the water cycle, and so on. It is a question of daunting complexity, but one that has to be answered in the coming years."

World Water Week will be filled with celebrations as well as deliberations. On Friday, The Stockholm Water Prize will be presented by HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on behalf of the Stockholm Water Foundation to Professor Takashi Asano, a water reuse expert from the University of California at Davis. The award is presented annually for outstanding contributions on behalf of the world's water resources.

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize was awarded today, and went for the first time to Swedish students. Youths from 18 countries participated with projects on water and the water environment. Magnus Isacson, Johan Nilvebrant, and Rasmus Öman from Stockholm and the Bromma High School won the prize.


Stockholm Junior Water Prize winners
The students from Bromma, a part of greater Stockholm, recieved the prize and the US$5,000 scholarship for their project, "Removal of Metal Ions from Leachate" The Jury's said it was "an innovative and relevant research project on the use of natural materials for the removal of metals in leachate in landfills."

"The Prize has established itself as The World Championship' on water research for youth," said Dr. Johan Rockström of IHE-Delft, The Netherlands, chairman of the international nominating committee. "This is a great achievement, but more importantly it is filling an enormous gap. There are simply far too few arenas for tribute of young excellence in managing our finite and precious natural resources, such as water."