Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Thus croaked the ancient mariner as he stumbled around his ghost ship surrounded by the expansive ocean that could not quench his thirst. Such a powerful phrase encapsulates the desperation of a person seeking water to drink and wishing that their unslaked throat would feel the refreshing soothe of the liquid that would keep them alive. Images of people lost in the desert searching for that just-out-of reach oasis are etched in our collective repertoire of tales about overcoming adversity. Fortunately we in the UK have had the comfort of reading such stories in a country where water is relatively abundant and the anxiety associated with the lack thereof is but a mirage on the distant horizon of our consciousness.
Here in the UK we notice water in terms of its weather-related qualities; worrying about which coat to wear in case it rains or anxious about the threat of a hose-pipe ban that often looms during those warm summer days that dry up our reservoirs. But apart from it being a bit of an inconvenience to remember to take an umbrella out with us or not being able to water the garden for a few days here and there, we do not have to worry about water in the ways that many across the world have to: we do not have to consider our careful management of water as a matter of life or death. And how fortunate we are that this is the case. However, this does not mean that we can ignore the fact water is increasingly being spoken about in a variety of circles, and I’m not just talking about a polite tête à tête at the odd social event where vague comments about the weather slink between the talk of other contemporary issues.
Water is being spoken about as a security issue by policy makers – how will access to water in the future put stresses on society that potentially result in situations of conflict? The relationship between water, energy and food is being analysed by scientists and decision-makers to ensure that an holistic view is taken, especially where there is a direct relationship with food and/or energy. Water footprinting is increasingly becoming an important aspect of sustainability reporting as calculations of embedded water show us how much of the valuable H2O is contained in our goods and commodities.
Water is also related to indicators of changing climate – such as increasingly erratic rainfall patterns – as well as being one of the primary mediums though which the impacts of climate change will be felt – such as through prolonged droughts, resulting in crop failure. As a result of this intricate relationship that water has with climate change for the last three years the Water and Climate Coalition has been working to ensure that water management is integrated in relevant UNFCCC programmes; that water expertise is linked to the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee; and that water related adaptation and mitigation will be addressed under the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund.
So far the Coalition has been successful in putting water as a specific agenda item under the SBSTA strand of the UNFCCC. More recently it was confirmed that water would be included as part of the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) and the adaptation issues that fall under this stream. In Durban – COP 17 – the Water and Climate Coalition will be co-hosting a ‘Water Day’ with the Global Water Partnership (GWP) to not only raise the profile of water as an issue in the UNFCCC negotiations but to also bring together experts in the field who can present solutions to some of the tough questions that must be asked when delicately balancing some of the fundamental issues that lie at the heart of the climate and water relationship.
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