2006: Policies for the future conference
The World’s Water Crisis: Turning the tide – Policies for the future
On the 20th of June the EWP, in cooperation with Friends For Europe, Veolia Environnement and the WSSTP, organised a European Policy Summit titled ‘The World’s Water Crisis – Turning the tide, policies for the future’. Held in the magnificent Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussel, this event offered an opportunity to debate the international water crisis before an audience of about 200 EU and national policymakers, regional and municipal officials, business and NGO representatives, academic experts and the international press. It examined not only environmental and sustainable development issues, but also the potential for economic growth, technological innovation and increasing competitiveness in the water sector. For this purpose the programme was divided in three sessions, with different panels of experts.
The first session was titled ‘Worldwide water issues- how Europe too is suffering’. Good water governance is acknowledged to be an important key to sustained economic development in developing countries, but how effective are the water policy initiatives in Europe itself? Is Europe taking the steps needed to ensure adequate and clean water supplies? How can the cooperation between the various stakeholders be increased?
The second session, which was titled ‘What would failure to achieve the water-related MDG’s mean?’, discussed the aim of the Millennium Development Plan to ensure that everyone around the world would have acces to safe water and adequate sanitation in 2025. These goals look increasingly unattainable as over a billion people still lack safe water and over 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation. How can water aid efforts be innovated to reach these goals? What has been the impact to date of the European Union’s Water Initiative? How fundamental is water policy to political and economic stability of developing countries? Is water policy getting the attention it deserves?
Numerous subjects were brought up by either the panel of experts or members of the audience. These included the lack of attention for sanitation and thus the desirability of a Year for Sanitation and an International Summit on Sanitation; the need for an international body on water issues; water as a security issue; the governance problem, not only in the developing countries, but in the industrial countries as well; the possibilities of using local techniques in the developing countries and the need for cooperation between suppliers in different developing countries; the need to involve local communities in water projects, because a lot of projects fail because of a lack of such involvement; the need for accurate data and the need for ways to minimize the amount of water needed per crop.
The third and final session was titled ‘Can Europe pioneer new water treatment technologies?’. Europe has extensive knowledge and experience of developing solutions in the field of water, but the fragmented character of the European Water sector strongly limits this potential. What can be done to exploit this capacity to its full potential? How can we build and strengthen communication between the different stakeholders on a national and international level? How can technology development and dissemination be improved to exploit this capacity? What else should policy makers be doing to encourage industry research into new methods of water supply, waste monitoring and treatment and wastewater management? How can we foster technical, institutional and financial innovation?
The members of the panel agreed that Europe has the capacity to pioneer new technologies. It’s more a question of where to find the market for these new technologies. In the current water crisis time is lacking to test technologies to perfection, we have to have new technologies on the market as soon as possible to help solve the crisis. The challenges of this crisis can also be seen as opportunities for the water industry. The WSSTP is working to help the water industry act on these challenges, as explicated by the chairman of the WSSTP, Claude Roulet. An obstruction to the implementation is the current price of water, which might be too low to make innovation possible.