Thursday, August 20, 2009

Global Water Survey: Results

Some encouraging news from Carl Ganter and the always-impressive Circle of Blue at World Water Week:


A quick summary from

A close look at the results shows that people around the world view water pollution as the most important facet of the freshwater crisis, and that shortages of fresh water are very close behind. Across the 15 countries surveyed:

• 93 percent say water pollution is a very serious (72 percent) or somewhat serious (21 percent) problem.

• 91 percent believe that a shortage of fresh water is a very serious (71 percent) or somewhat serious (20 percent) problem.

Across the seven focus countries:

• Government is considered among the most responsible for ensuring clean water.

• 78 percent say “solving drinking water problems will require significant help from companies,” indicating that partnerships are an important component to resolving the world’s freshwater sustainability challenges.

• 76 percent say “I need more information to be able to do more to protect water.”

While people around the world agree on the importance of the issue, some key differences between the countries surveyed support the idea that solutions will have to be carefully tailored to local conditions.

These findings are helpful for water writ large, and highlight a couple of really important topics:

- At the end of the day, meeting peoples' needs for safe drinking water and sanitation is the responsibility of the governments around the world. If those governments chose to outsource some of the infrastructure provision, I have no issue with that per se. Those governments need to maintain the intellectual capacity to manage that relationship so that the outsourced provider is not simply focused on profit, but on the social contract.

- Solutions will indeed need to be tailored for each local condition. There are so many social externalities associated with water and sanitation/hygiene that the cultural piece of this puzzle may prove to be the most challenging.

- I need to dig into the report further, but I hope that its definition of 'pollution' includes not just industrial/chemical contaminants running into water supplies, but nasty biological contaminants like rotavirus and vibrio cholerae, which kill millions of people unnecessarily each year. However, considering that quality typically lags quantity, it's good to see quality taking the spotlight in this survey period.

And of course MUST give shout out to Molson Coors Brewing Co. for their support for this survey. Molson can spend its money (part of it from me...) on many things, and I am glad they chose this.

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