Saturday 20 October, 3.30pm until 5.00pm, Garden Room
The hosepipe ban introduced in England earlier this year was the signal for it to rain for months on end. Soaked commuters on London platforms faced posters of cracked dry earth stating: ‘none of us can make it rain but we can all use less water’. Thames Water even resorted to sending ‘drought speakers’ into schools to educate children in using less water and to pester their wasteful, albeit squeaky-clean, parents into changing their behaviour. No wonder there was popular resentment and widespread scepticism about the so-called ‘drought’ whatever the realities of low rainfall over the last two years. Nevertheless, on an international level, there has been much talk of a global water crisis in addition to fears of water wars erupting over this sought-after resource.
The United Nations Development Programme says that water scarcity is ‘rooted in power, poverty and inequality, not in physical availability’. Throughout history rivers have been diverted to supply water to where it is needed and in London a new desalination plant, built despite the objections of no-flush Ken Livingstone, now supplies a million people with fresh water. So, why in Britain today is something so apparently plentiful as water in such short supply? The Romans were master builders of aqueducts, and a 500 kilometre-long water pipeline was built a century ago in Western Australia. Modern engineering should make accessibility to clean water even easier. In the twenty-first century, why can’t we move water from sodden Scotland to scorched Sussex? Is the problem that rural communities with plenty of water would resent sending it to those thirsty tennis court-watering London city types? Or is water just too darn cheap?
Should we consider water a commodity rather than a human right? Just because something is essential, why should that make it cheap? A higher price would surely be the spur for people to value and use water as they would any paid-for, vital and finite resource. But sceptics say we risk irreversible damage to natural water supplies and the environment if we hike up the price and enable expensive water transfer systems and costly desalination plants to simply satisfy our demands for beautiful golf greens. Should we accept that we need to turn off the tap or might paying a bit more for unlimited quantities and guilt-free daily power showering be worth the price?
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independent water consultant; member, ICE Water Expert Panel; fellow, Royal Academy of Engineers
|Dr Caspar Hewett|
Lecturer in civil engineering at Newcastle University, and director of The Great Debate
|David Lloyd Owen|
managing director, Envisager; author, The Sound of Thirst
senior vice president, sustainable development, SABMiller
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; university finance and accommodation officer
The world faces a projected 40 percent shortfall in freshwater by 2030, according to a study by the 2030 Water Resources Group. Seventy percent of the water humans use now goes toward agriculture. So it's no surprise that the central theme of the annual World Water Week conference held last week in Stockholm is how to produce more food while using less water in the process.Andy Wales, Huffington Post, 20 September 2012
Water, food and energy are interconnected: agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater use and can pollute freshwater supplies if mismanaged. Water is also used to generate electricity. Successfully addressing the triple challenge of water stress, food security and energy supplies means taking a holistic view and balancing the many competing demandsSAB Miller, 26 August 2012
The discovery of a 10,000-year-old supply of water in an underground aquifer in northern Namibia, near the border with Angola, could potentially reshape the developing nation’s ability to cope with the effects of climate change and rising population.Michael Dolgow, Bloomsberg Businessweek, 1 August 2012
One, the ethical consumer brand, has signed up Third City as its retained agency following a four-way pitch.John Owens, PR Week, 2 July 2012
Over the past 40 years the world's population has doubled. Our use of water has quadrupled. Yet the amount of water on Earth has stayed the same.Roger Harrabin, BBC News, 19 June 2012
Water, water, everywhere. Or is it? The Sound of Thirst explains the urgency of taking water and waste water seriously in an age where good management and political will are chronically scarce.
David Lloyd Owen, Parthian Books, 1 June 2012
Never mind the lack of rain in recent UK winters - it is our willingness to invest and build big that has really dried up.Rob Lyons, spiked, 3 May 2012