We are in the midst of World Water Week. The 2008 theme is “Progress and Prospects on Water: For a Clean and Healthy World with Special Focus on Sanitation.” World Water Week is a international conference focused on collaboration and the promotion of work that advances environmental and humanitarian development.
The United Nations proclaimed 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. With a focus on the Millennium Development Goals, the theme for World Water Week was chosen to draw attention to sanitation needs and the effect of poor sanitation worldwide. Goal seven – the goal of ensuring environmental sustainability- poses an enormous challenge, as do the sub goals, or target indicators. World Water Week highlights a target set by the MDG’s that calls for the reduction, by half, of the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
This July, WHO/UNICEF released a report entitled, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation; Special Focus on Sanitation. Their research notes that, “2.5 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation, including 1.2 billion who have no facilities at all.” The social and environmental consequences of these grim truths are devastating. In an interview with euronews, the World Water Institute¬¥s Cecilia Martinsen remarked that, “Sanitation is one of the worst catastrophies we face and we are not talking about it; so the aim of World Water Week this year is to lift the issue of sanitation to make the world realise that this is an issue and that we need to act now if we want to reach minimum development goals.”
To that end, World Water Week convenes 2,500 experts, representing over 200 organizations. Participating groups include regional development banks, waste management companies, humanitarian groups, think tanks, and representatives from several international organizations. The institutional strategy, “promotes the exchange of views and experiences between the scientiÔ¨Åc, business, policy and civil society communities, thereby advancing the water, environment, health, livelihood and poverty reduction agendas.” The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is co-leading sessions this week on the role of business in sanitation and note that several member companies will also be participating.
In an effort to celebrate important positive change, five prizes will be offered at World Water Week. In recognition of advances in business, the Stockholm Industry Water Award, “honours and encourages business sector contributions to sustainable development in the water sector,” and went to, “the pioneer of developing the world’s largest water purification plant for groundwater recharge.” The winners are the Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District, California.
Another example of success, although not a prize winner at Word Water Week, is the Great Lakes Commission, a group working to ensure the conservation and strategic development of the Great Lakes Basin. The Commission is a binational agency that exemplifies government, business, and community partnership. They recently won congressional approval for the Great Lakes Compact, legislation creating a mandate for the Commission to represent the eight states involved in economic and environmental issues concerning the Great Lake Basin. While environmental critics question terms of the agreement, it is overwhelmingly lauded as a measure of preservation.
World Water Week intends to foster similar cross-sector cooperation at the same time generating public awareness. Also known as the Stockholm Water Symposium, World Water Week has been led by the Stockholm International Water Institute since 1991. For a look back at previous 3P commentary on World Water Week, continue reading.
Are you aware of the global sanitation issues we face? Are you affected by inadequate sanitation? What innovations do you support?