CEO-blog: On the Verge of a Decisive Decade

2018/03/22

Mads Nipper

On this year’s World Water Day, Mads Nipper puts the spotlight on some of the current water challenges, and looks into the coming Water Action Decade.

Today is one of the days where water is receiving the attention, it deserves. Today
is World Water Day, and while the theme for this year’s event is ‘Nature for Water’, it’s another part of today that catches my attention: the launch of the Water Action Decade. Ten, tangible years, where we can continue our efforts to meet the substantial water challenges, our world is facing.

The fight for water for all is not a fight for just one day. It’s a fight for today, tomorrow and every following day for the coming ten years and beyond. We must find a way to tackle the serious water issues, and ensure universal water access by 2030 as we set out to do with the Sustainable Development Goal 6.

A painstakingly clear example of the necessity of solving the water challenge can be found in Cape Town, South Africa. A city of millions, which literally has been balancing on the edge of running out of water. There have been serious talks about Day Zero, the day when taps will be turned off. People are rationed, limited to use only 50 litres of water per person per day.

For now, it seems that Day Zero is pushed a bit away, among other things because of resource rationing. But this also rests on the hope of rain coming in to replenish water resources. But even if a situation, where taps are turned off is avoided, we still face an issue as a global society: we need to find ways to ensure that this does not occur in Cape Town again or anywhere else.

We also see situations, where there is all too much water. In connection with Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston hard, the Texas area experienced more rain than ever, as for instance in Nederland, where record-breaking 1.53 metres of water dropped. Not least the heavy flooding caused by the hurricane made it one of the most devastating and costly storms ever to hit the United States, only surpassed by Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005.

Finally, we are challenged by increasing urbanisation across the world. By 2050 it is expected that two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, and this poses new challenges to the water infrastructure of the cities, which not only must be expanded, but also made more efficient to protect resources.

We need to come together across the public and private spheres to really gain traction on water. According to the World Bank, investments in water infrastructure must be tripled, if we are to reach everyone with water, and we cannot make that happen, at least this is my claim, without drawing on private investors and businesses too, in close collaboration with partners on a society level.

We need the expertise from NGO’s to reach the poorest people in the world, and maybe the people who need water the most, for instance as the company, I represent, does in cooperation with among other Danish Church Aid in the large refugee camp Bidibidi in Uganda, where we together make water available for the people living here.

And we need to use the technologies ready at hand to make sure that water is not just available and affordable, but also drinkable.

In short, we need everyone to pull their weight to handle water. And we need to think about how to do it every day. Not just today. Not just for the coming decade. But until we have found sustainable solutions.