Water politics

Water politics, sometimes called hydropolitics, is politics affected by the availability of water and water resources, a necessity for all life forms and human development. The first use of the term, hydropolitics, came in the book by John Waterbury, entitled Hydropolitics of the Nile Valley, Syracuse University Press, 1979 (ISBN 0-8156-2192-2). The availability of drinking water per capita is inadequate and shrinking worldwide.[1] The causes, related to both quantity and quality, are many and varied; they include local scarcity, limited availability and population pressures, but also human activities of mass consumption, misuse, environmental degradation and water pollution, as well as climate change. Water's essential nature makes it a strategic natural resource globally, and in its absence, an important element of political conflicts in many areas, historically. With decreasing availability and increasing demand for water, some have predicted that clean water will become the "next oil"; making countries like Canada, Chile, Norway, Colombia and Peru, with this resource in abundance, the water-rich countries in the world.[2][3][4] The UN World Water Development Report (WWDR, 2003) from the World Water Assessment Program indicates that, in the next 20 years, the quantity of water available to everyone is predicted to decrease by 30%. Currently, 40% of the world's inhabitants have insufficient fresh water for minimal hygiene. More than 2.2 million people died in 2000 from diseases related to the consumption of contaminated water or drought. In 2004, the UK charity WaterAid reported that a child dies every 15 seconds from easily preventable water-related diseases; often this means lack of sewage disposal; see toilet. The United Nations Development Programme sums up world water distribution in the 2006 development report: "One part of the world sustains a designer bottled water market that genera es no tangible health benefits, another part suffers acute public health risks because people have to drink water from drains or from lakes and rivers."[5] Fresh water now more precious than ever in our history for its extensive use in agriculture, high-tech manufacturing, and energy production is increasingly receiving attention as a resource requiring better management and sustainable use. Riparian water rights have become issues of international diplomacy, in addition to domestic and regional water rights and politics ([6]). World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin predicted, "Many of the wars of the 20th century were about oil, but wars of the 21st century will be over water unless we change the way we manage water." (,[7] p. 163).[8] This is debated by some, however, who argue that disputes over water usually are resolved by diplomacy and do not turn into wars.[9] Another new school of thought argues that "perceived fears of losing control over shared water might contribute towards a constant preparedness to go to war among riparian nations, just in case there is one." Most importantly, fresh water is a fundamental requirement of all living organisms, crops, livestock and humanity included. The UNDP considers access to it a basic human right and a prerequisite for peace. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated in 2001, "Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity." With increased development, many industries, including forestry, agriculture, mining, manufacturing and recreation require sizable additional amounts of freshwater to operate. This, however, has led to increases in air and water pollution, which in turn have reduced the quality of water supply. More sustainable development practices are advantageous and necessary.