Highlights from “Plenary 4: Effecting Change, Improving Access to Water”

April 20, 2010

Margaret Catley-Carlson starts us off with a seven point overview of the water situation, covering the water consumption patterns of those in developed economies (it turns out that the amount of water used to grow our food supply dwarfs all other uses combined!) – and the needs of those without water. Girish Nair of McKinsey presents a series of slides that detail the different ways that access to water could be improved in different countries. The picture is different in India, China, South Africa. In other words, water use and availability is a local issue, and donors should carefully consider the local needs rather than attempting to use the same strategy everywhere.

Meena Palaniappan of The Pacific Institute urges an alternative to the traditional “hard path” of building more dams, reservoirs and pipelines. Instead, she talks about a “soft path” that focuses on the productivity of water use. We should consider the “cradle to grave” aspects of water use: where do we get water and what quality of water are we depositing back into the environment? Technology advances are allowing smarter water use down at the individual level, tracking not just how much is used but how it is used and re-used.

Monica Ellis of the Global Environment and Technology Foundation emphasizes the areas to which donors can usefully contribute: advocacy/awareness, financing sustainable water provision and innovation in technology and water management. But, again, the panelists emphasize that the specific strategies will look different depending on the location of the work.

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