The very real danger of global water shortages is once again an immediate concern on World Water Day. One billion people still lack access to safe drinking water and more than two billion people lack access to adequate sanitation despite some claims that the millennium development goals for water have been reached.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)supports World Water Day 2012 on 22nd March, which this year will focus international attention on the increasing threats to food and water security which is exacerbated by population growth, industrialisation and climate change.

The world’s population has now passed 7 billion people; this is 7 billion consumers of a finite yet vital and life giving resource - water. Water is consumed both directly and indirectly, through the products we buy, the crops we grow, and the food we eat. An increased understanding of this process and the consumptive and non consumptive use of water is vital if we are to better understand and conserve water.

CIWEMs Policy Position Statement ‘Water Footprinting’ reviews some of the challenges in the use of concepts such as "embedded water" and "virtual water", welcoming the attention it draws to water use whilst urging caution in adopting a blanket approach. CIWEM advocates a better understanding of the differences between green, blue and grey water. This will help ensure that products are produced in the most viable locations thus allowing the production of indirect goods whilst simultaneously ensuring the needs of local populations and environments can be met.

CIWEM opposes the development of policies which increase ‘water waste’ such as the EU target of 10% of transport fuels being from bio sources which will lead to the growth of high water consuming crops and a reduction in the amount of land available for valuable food production. The challenges posed by water and food security are therefore not just threats to the developing world. Europe is grappling with a variety of land use problems exacerbated by the changing climate, the resulting floods and droughts (which is receiving great media and public interest in the UK) presents both a major challenge and opportunity for change.

CIWEM calls for profound shifts in ideology, policy, institutional approaches, and engineering R&D to ensure water forms a major part of policymaking related to climate change at local, national and international levels.

CIWEM Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “The lack of access to water and sanitation for millions of people is the greatest development failure of the modern era. Sanitation has enormous economic, social and ecological implications.”

“Society has long believed that science and technology can provide effective solutions to most of the environmental problems that we face. A coherent education structure from primary school to adulthood will create water wise consumers thus helping to ensure water is available to all.”

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world www.ciwem.org

CIWEMs Policy Position Statement ‘Water Footprinting’ can be found at: http://www.ciwem.org/policy-and-international/policy-position-statements/water-footprinting.aspx

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