Monday, April 09, 2007

Water, water...and not a drop to drink

Water shortages are here. And coming to you, where ever you are on the globe.

Clean, potable water is increasingly scarce and expensive in the Mexicali Valley, urban China, San Diego, Saudi Arabia, and rural India. One in five people around the world lacks access to clean water.

Governments are involved at every level, including multilaterals. Big companies are paying attention. Small companies are trying to address the problem. Philanthropy is involved. In the past few weeks - perhaps prompted by World Water Day - I have been contacted by several water crisis related NGOs including the Global Water Foundation and Water Partners International.

Every strategy is being used - Celebrities (Johan Kriek, professional tennis player is a founder of GWF), high-end bottled water sold at a premium drives funds from rich countries to poor ones, micro-credit strategies focused on water projects are part of the work at WPI. Even hip American authors like Nathan Englander are getting involved, writing deliberately snarky (and engaging) fundraising copy for the TapProject.

And, of course, every strategy has its critics - some blame governments, others are convinced its a problem of privatization. Of course, it is an environmental problem, an economic problem, a gender issue, and health and sanitation issues.

So, what if we could find a way to address this in a way that takes into account the best contributions of each sector - public, private and philanthropic? We can think about the issue in both established and emerging economic situations, democracies and authoritarian regimes, at the individual and collective levels. It would be a great issue to watch in terms of how the sectors intersect.

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