Water in the Green Economy

The Stockholm Statement (2011) described water as the ‘bloodstream of the green economy’. Yet water resources are limited in many parts of the world and pressures are increasing as the demand for water for people, food, industry and the environment grows. If the world continues to use water at current rates it is estimated that demand could outstrip supply by as much as 40% by 2030, putting both water and food security at risk, constraining sustainable economic development, and degrading the ‘green infrastructure’ on which everything else depends. Momentum is now building to highlight water and its role in the green economy as a priority issue for Rio+20. In November 2011, world leaders and professionals gathered in Bonn to prepare for Rio+20 and they examined water as the common thread connecting food, energy, and climate change. The Bonn conference highlighted that sustainable development and growth beyond poverty eradication can be achieved by better management of the world’s ecosystems and a more informed and optimal use of water, land, and other natural resources. We argue that water is not just part of the economy; it is embedded within the economy. Without it the economy could not function. Thus water will be central to the innovative thinking and effective solutions required to establish the green economy. In this paper we set out the case for an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach to water security (Box 1) and its potential to lead the process of ‘greening’ the world’s economies.

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