The Bonn Declaration
Long before nations fought over oil, they fought over water and food. A conference in Bonn Germany of 500 leading water scientists from around the world today issued a stark warning that, without major reforms, "in the short span of one or two generations, the majority of the 9 billion people on Earth will be living under the handicap of severe pressure on fresh water, an absolutely essential natural resource for which there is no substitute. This handicap will be self-inflicted and is, we believe, entirely avoidable."
Water conflict or war is a term describing a conflict between countries, states, or groups over an access to water resources. The United Nations recognizes that water disputes result from opposing interests of water users, public or private.
A wide range of water conflicts appear throughout history, though rarely are traditional wars waged over water alone. Instead, water has historically been a source of tension and a factor in conflicts that start for other reasons. However, water conflicts arise for several reasons, including territorial disputes, a fight for resources, and strategic advantage.
As water supplies run low tempers will go high.
There are several disquieting global phenomena that have given rise to the Anthropocene, a term coined for a new geologic epoch characterized by humanity's growing dominance of the Earth's environment and a planetary transformation as profound as the last epoch-defining event -- the retreat of the glaciers 11,500 years ago.
There are many examples of humanity's imprint on the world, as cited in a paper by James Syvitski, Chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and three fellow experts (in full: http://bit.ly/Yx4COp), and in a new "Water in the Anthropocene" video to debut in Bonn May 21 (available at gwsp.org and http://www.anthropocene.info):
Humanity uses an area the size of South America to grow its crops and an area the size of Africa for raising livestock.
Due to groundwater and hydrocarbon pumping in low lying coastal areas, two-thirds of major river deltas are sinking, some of them at a rate four times faster on average than global sea level is rising.
On average, humanity has built one large dam every day for the last 130 years. Tens of thousands of large dams now distort natural river flows to which ecosystems and aquatic life adapted over millennia.
Drainage of wetlands destroys their capacity to ease floods.
The scientists assembled in Bonn have made a set of core recommendations to institutions, governments,and individuals focused on science, management and decision-making relevant to water resources on earth. They urged a united front to form a strategic partnership of scientists, public stakeholders, decision-makers and the private sector. This partnership should develop a broad, community-consensus blueprint for a reality-based, multi-perspective, and multi-scale knowledge-to-action water agenda, based on these recommendations:
Make a renewed commitment to adopt a multi-scale and interdisciplinary approach to water science in order to understand the complex and interlinked nature of the global water system and how it may change now and in future.
Execute state-of-the-art synthesis studies of knowledge about fresh water that can inform risk assessments and be used to develop better strategies.
Train the next generation of water scientists and practitioners in global change research and management, making use of cross-scale analysis and integrated system design.
Expand monitoring, through traditional land-based environmental observation networks and state-of-the-art earth-observation satellite systems, to provide detailed observations of water system state.
Consider ecosystem-based alternatives to costly structural solutions for climate proofing, such that the design of the built environment in future includes both traditional and green infrastructure.
Stimulate innovation in water institutions, with a balance of technical- and governance-based solutions and taking heed of value systems and equity. A failure to adopt a more inclusive approach will make it impossible to design effective green growth strategies or policies.
For further information see Bonn Declaration,
LA Aqueduct image via Wikipedia.