Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Economist special report on water

The Economist magazine has a special report on water in its latest issue and they tackle subject in the thorough and well-written style they are known for.  The articles in the report have a very international flavor - special focus on China, India, and Africa with only passing mentions made of much of the developing world - such as the U.S.  I think the focus is wholly appropriate, considering that while water crises are much discussed in places like the western U.S. and Australia, the real dire situations in the near future are in areas of the world undergoing rapid economic development - with rapid development of water supplies going along with it.  The effects of climate change on water supplies are also going to be disproportionately felt in places like China and India, which have extensive arid areas, enormous populations, and astounding economic growth - coupled with little effective management of water supplies.

The sections of the report that really impressed me were:

1) The section that discussed local management efforts to protect groundwater resources in parts of India.  This is a great example of how communities on the watershed or basin level can develop workable solutions to managing their resources without top-down mandates from governments imposing one-size-fits-all policies.  It also demonstrates how good science, coupled with good data collection, can empower farmers and other local water users to manage their resources for the benefit of all - what gets measured, gets managed.

2) The author also does a pretty good job of debunking the water footprinting concept in the section on using economics to encourage conservation.  There was some good discussion of the general need to match demand with supplies but he didn't go into much depth on how this can be used to develop sustainable water policies.

Overall a really good bit of journalism - about what I expect from the The Economist.  Check it out for yourself.

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