Water quality should be emphasized more

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Water quality should be on the spotlight and the focal point for discussion during this year's World Water Week from September 5th to 11th, said Anders Bertil, Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, SIWI.

"We haven't given enough emphasis to the quality of the resource. So that has been the sort of the orphan child of international water discussions. And I think that it's really time that we put the spotlight on the water quality challenge," Bertil said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua recently.

It is expected that about 2,400 people from around the world will participate in the water week. It will be a mixture of people -- government representatives, business people, scientists and people from non-governmental organizations to discuss water problems with different backgrounds and different experiences.

There will be three main areas in water quality to be discussed.

"The first one is all the water born diseases, that still is a big problem in many parts of the world. Cholera is one of them, but there are also many others. And the root cause behind the water-born diseases is to a large extend, the lack of adequate sanitation because with the spreading of waste from humans, it becomes a problem when diseases are spread into the water resources that people eventually drink," Bertil told Xinhua.

The wide spread use of chemicals in the society and households in both developing and industrialized countries is the second area to be discussed, especially in agriculture where there is also a lot of use of chemicals spreading in the environment in large areas.

"And the third area we will discuss is also the fact that many manufacturing industries now have moved from the western world to developing countries. And with that move of the manufacturing industry, the environmental problems have also moved," Bertil said the emissions of pollutants from many industries that earlier took place in countries like Sweden and in Europe and North America have now moved to many developing countries.

The weak legislation and implementation of existing legislation in dealing with water pollution will also be discussed during the week.

"I think the water quality challenge that we address this year here at the World Water Week, is the biggest challenge that remains for us to address, but apart from that, I think also that there are two areas which will affect us globally. And that is firstly climate change, and the effects on water, and secondly food production," Bertil said.

He said that climate change is something that we can see already affecting the water situation in many parts of the world, for example the floods in China, North Korea, India and Pakistan. In other parts of the world, the weather patterns are changing and rainfall becomes more unpredictable which can be direct effect of climate change in water availability.

Bertil said water consumption in food production is another challenge to be addressed. With the increase of the world population and the improvement of people's life, people tend to consume more water intensive food, for example beef which consumes 100 times more water than wheat.

"So for each human being, there might be up to footprints behind our daily diet that could be as big as five cubic meters per person per day if you eat a lot of meat maybe like they do in United States. A country with the higher proportion of vegetables in the diet like in China, which is healthy in that respective, has a lower footprint. But we can see that also in many countries, the food preferences are changing, and the food becomes more water intensive in our food consumption, and this will affect the water resource availability globally," Bertil explained.

Bertil said that international cooperation is increasing.

"There are a lot of new initiatives and new collaboration between countries, between different institutions and between scientists around the world, and there is an increasing awareness of the challenges," Bertil said.

"I think there are good examples of countries addressing both the critical challenges to provide safe drinking water to their population, to help also in dealing with the sanitation challenges to have proper sanitation facilities for your households, for your school in your municipality," Bertil said.

"And we can also see that there are countries who are addressing the water resources challenges, the availability of water in rivers and lakes and so on in a more holistic way than what was done before. But not at an enough scale so far. There are good examples, but we need to scale them up. So we need still even more international cooperation because we need to learn from each other and the good examples that are already up there," Bertil said.

He said the water week will be a platform for politicians, government representatives, business people, scientists and people from NGOs to meet each other and learn from each other's experiences.

During the World Water Week, three main prizes including Stockholm Junior Water Prize, Stockholm Water Prize and an industrial prize in water will be issued.

This year also marks the 20 anniversary of SIWI, which hosts the World Water Week every year since 1991 and a lot of earlier Stockholm Water Prize Laureates will come for the week from September 5th to 11th.

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