Official logo for World Water Day 2024 showing two doves and a peace signed, which reads Water and Peace

World Water Day 2024. The theme is Water for Peace. In her blog to mark the occasion, FIDO CEO Victoria Edwards argues that the answer to harmonious water access might lie closer to home than you might think.

 

EVER since Ronald Reagan, western monetary orthodoxy has been driven by a theory called supply-side economics. A core belief (thank you Investopedia!) that production drives economic growth more than demand.

In other words, the more you encourage consumers to buy things they didn’t even know they wanted the better.

Half a century on, the fatal flaw in this world view is becoming clear. Our consumption may be insatiable, but the earth’s resources are not.

The one thing we could always rely on never running out was water. Thanks to the perfect virtuous water cycle, this magic life-giver – the provider of all growth in the truest sense – endlessly replenishes itself through a process of evaporation, condensation and precipitation.

Only … that’s not panning out the way we expected either is it?

 

World Water Day 2024 and the call for peace

This World Water Day, the United Nations has called this fallacy out in its theme for 2024 – Water and Peace.

Because, unlike shiny gold trainers and fast fashion, even a day without water is impossible.

With more than 60% of the world’s limited freshwater crossing national boundaries, not to mention climate change, and migration pressures on stretched local resources, the sad fact is that water is too often a trigger, a weapon or a casualty in disputes. According to the Pacific Institute Water Conflict Chronology 2023, in the 10 years since 2014 there have been 468 conflicts in which water was a trigger. For the 10 years prior to 2014, there were 92.

Add to that our chronic mismanagement through water loss and pollution and our virtuous cycle starts to look more like a vicious circle of shortage, waste, contamination and discord.

 

Don’t inadvertently commoditise water

Unfortunately, water conflicts are just the sign of a greater malaise which affects our historic inattention to water issues, and I fear our responses to them risk being more of the same.

Commoditising water through international agreements and water rights implies an ownership of a resource which should be an inalienable human right. We would be foolish if, through inattention, we allow that right to be eroded.

While many of us have been enjoying the luxuries of supply-side economics in the mistaken belief that water is so cheap and plentiful that we don’t need to think about it, we’ve been failing to adapt and invest in the engineering that made it happen.

International agreements will not change the fundamental fact that changing weather patterns and demographics are the main problem. Suddenly the infrastructure we built up to a century ago is in the wrong place. The leaks we thought we could get away without fixing are more serious. The water-hungry crops we’re growing in the desert make less economic sense.

 

Water scarcity impacts are fundamentally local

In 2024, around 30% of expensively and carbon-intensively sourced water from the world’s pipeline networks is still being lost before it reaches the user.

More than almost any other resource, the impact of water scarcity is felt at a local level and can exist even within areas of relative water abundance.

According to the IPCC, half the world’s population experiences water scarcity for at least part of the year. Many are living in developed regions and cities. That’s an opportunity for division and inequality our society does not need.

As World Water Day 2024 suggests, conflict has stepped into that opening. We need to close it fast.

And we can. Mankind has created the most equipped civilisation in terms of data knowledge and technology that there has ever been. We are more than able to adapt and keep adapting to re-build the healthy watersheds that sustain us and live in harmony with the environment they sustain too.

 

We must manage watersheds better

Water is water. It belongs to no-one. There’s no more or less of it than there ever was. We need to share that water more equitably, including with the environment, by managing what we have got.

The Colorado river basin is an example. First dammed around a century ago, it is now probably the most over-allocated river in the world. Some 40 million (and growing) people rely on the river and it supports a $1.4tn economy. Yet as climate change bites, the agreements drawn up by its riparian states do not – excuse the pun – hold water any more.

Not that long ago, Lake Mead, behind the Hoover Dam, was so low it nearly hit dead pool level – the point when water would not pass through the dam towards the Grand Canyon.

This isn’t currently a conflict zone, but as investors snap up land and water rights in the basin I get the feeling that water scarcity might be the next gold rush in the West.

 

An effective new model for conflict offsetting

Fortunately, enlightened corporations, utilities and technologies within the basin believe there’s another way. We have formed a catalytic community called Water, United which is based on shared goals of water stewardship to replenish the Colorado basin.

Our initial goal is to make fast quantified water savings by tackling water lost through leaks. But as we grow we hope to attract more utilities, technologies and unconventional partners into our orbit.

FIDO AI with its unique ability to measure and verify water volumes using the developing international standard volumetric water benefit accounting is the glue holding these disparate partners together.

Since our launch with Microsoft, PepsiCo, Oldcastle-Infrastructure, Water-Foundry and Atlantean-media and commencing with the Las Vegas Valley Water District just a little over a month ago, the response has been phenomenal; not just from corporates, innovators and utilities (not just water utilities either), but from cross-sector groups, community organisations and educators.

It’s a ground-up movement driven by need and shared purpose which recognises the interconnectedness of water and its capacity to be an agent of harmony and continued growth through good stewardship. Because what we lack on the supply side will be more than made up for by restoring nature’s first perfect circular economy, the water cycle. Find out more about World Water Day 2024 here.

Water, United was officially launched in Phoenix on February 14, 2024.

Please contact Victoria if you are a corporate, ESG lead, Colorado-dependent community leader, utility, representative or anyone who wants to be part of this initiative.

 

Subscribe to Victoria’s monthly Linked In newsletter Losing It here and make sure you get her blogs first.