Rethink global water challenge, says latest FIDIC State of the World report

22 Jul 2021

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FIDIC is calling on the global construction and infrastructure industry, world governments and all stakeholders to renew and rethink efforts to address the global water challenge to meet sustainable development goals and improve people’s lives, writes FIDIC communications advisor Andy Walker.

FIDIC’s latest State of the World Report, Tackling the global water crisis, the third in the series of reports on the key infrastructure issues facing the world, makes a clear call to build on current innovative approaches to addressing water challenges being implemented around the globe and rethink how these can be improved to meet the UN sustainable development goals and build a better world.

The new report published today builds on and reinforces the recommendations from the previous State of the World publication, Establishing the value of water - the business case for change, and calls on stakeholders to adopt three key recommendations to enable the world to adequately tackle the growing water crisis. Those three recommendations are: -

  • Respect the importance of water.
  • Renew all efforts to meet the UN sustainable development goals.
  • Rethink what approaches that are needed to sustainably achieve those goals.

FIDIC says that tackling the global water crisis calls for the value of water to be respected by setting prices at appropriate levels to encourage conservation and management, including respecting the needs of those who cannot pay, acknowledging that much of the water cycle is beyond the scope of revenue and integrated management and is critical to ensuring the whole system is considered.

Secondly, the report recommends wide involvement in decision-making around water management, embracing communities at all levels in the process and recognising that decisions around water need to take into account of the wider context in which a water system by implementing extensive consultation and engagement.

Thirdly, the report recommends renewed and redoubled efforts from all stakeholders to tackle the persistent problem of inadequate water supply and sanitation to many of the world’s poorest people.

Commenting on the launch of the report, FIDIC president Bill Howard said: “New approaches are emerging to tackling many of the world’s water challenges, but progress is slower than it should be and very poor in respect of sanitation which lags behind water supply in provision. The challenges are extraordinary but the engineering community, if given the resources, is more than up to leading the effort. After all, this is what we are trained to do.”

Writing in the report, Peter Guthrie, professor of engineering for sustainable development at the University of Cambridge, said: “The ‘Respect, Renew, Rethink’ mantra outlined in the report is helpful in encouraging all engineers to come to the global issues of water in all its manifestations with a fresh approach and redoubled effort. This report adds significantly to the wider understanding of the vital contribution engineers can make in delivering on the UN sustainable development goals.”

Commenting on the report, Stuart Orr, freshwater practice leader at WWF International, said: “There is now a growing - but still not sufficiently realised - appreciation for the value of nature and natural systems in addressing these challenges. Increasingly, opportunities to protect, preserve and enhance aquatic and freshwater ecosystems, sustain livelihoods and meet the nutritional needs of a growing and changing population, will likely drive new financing and investment, enhance governance strategies for managing shared resources and bring new technologies to arrest and reverse the loss of nature and build a carbon-neutral and nature-positive economy and society.”

FIDIC chief executive Dr Nelson Ogunshakin said: “As well as outlining the scale of the water challenge and measures to address it, our Tackling the global water crisis report also highlights a number of projects from around the world that demonstrate some of the progress currently being made and the fantastic work of the engineering and construction industry. It is crucial that we share best practice in this area as it is only by understanding what we do today that we can achieve the potential of tomorrow.”

FIDIC’s State of the World report series, published throughout the year, shines a spotlight on a significant area, issue or challenge that the world faces and highlights key solutions to address them by using FIDIC’s extensive networks and expertise to facilitate global cooperation and discussion.

Click here to download a copy of the latest report, Tackling the global water crisis.

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