U.N. World Water Development Report to be Presented

March 21, 2003
Report Offers Comprehensive Assessment of the State of the World's Freshwater Resources

On Saturday, March 22, World Water Day, the first United Nations World Water Development Report "Water for People -- Water for Life" will be presented. The report offers an up-to-date comprehensive assessment of the state of the world's freshwater resources based on the collective inputs of 23 United Nations agencies.

A group of researchers, led by Slobodan P. Simonovic, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Research Chair, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) at The University of Western Ontario, prepared a section of the report on water related conflicts.

"The 21st Century is the water century," Simonovic said. "Hope for the future lies in cooperative international action directed to counter numerous water problems exaggerated by the climate variability and change. Canada has more water than most nations. However, changes in water availability in terms of quantity and quality greatly affect Canadian life. Canada and the world need to take action now and invest in waste water treatment."

Simonovic's research on a world water model and a Canadian water model makes us consider the following points.

- 1.1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation.

- More than 6,000 children die every day from diseases associated with unsafe water.

- Unsafe water and sanitation cause an estimated 80 percent of all diseases in the developing world.

- One flush of a Western toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses for a whole day's washing, drinking, cleaning and cooking.

- Water use has grown at twice the rate of population during the past century.

- In developing countries, as much as 90 percent of wastewater is discharged without the treatment.

- Floods affected more than 75 percent of all people impacted by natural disasters during the 1990's and caused 33 percent of the total estimated costs of natural disasters.

- Great Lakes levels are fluctuating to such a degree that daily surveillance has been necessary.

- Drinking water is of major concern (26 percent of Canadians rely on groundwater for domestic use, which, if contaminated, poses difficult cleanup problems).

- 60 percent of Canada's fresh water drains north, while 90 percent of the population lives within 300 km of the Canada-United States border.

- In order to deal with temporal and spatial variability in water supply Canada has built more than 600 large dams and about 60 large domestic interbasin diversions.

Simonovic is an expert on complex water and environmental systems. His work is related to the integration of risk, reliability, uncertainty, simulation and optimization in hydrology and water resources management. His recent work focuses on flood prevention and management. Recently named the National Lecture Tour speaker by the Canadian Water Resources Association, Simonovic will be delivering lectures this summer to the general public and water professionals across Canada.

The World Water Forum currently underway in Kyoto, Japan, has brought more than 10,000 government officials, representatives of international and non-governmental organizations, and industry and water experts together to discuss the world water crisis and its solutions. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater, recognizing the importance of water to the planet's future.

Source: University of Western Ontario