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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Water shortages: Are we doing enough?
Children carry water in the Zevenfontein community outside Johannesburg
A shortage of clean water is one of the most serious challenges facing the world this millennium, according to the United Nations.

People in rich countries use 10 times more water than those in poor countries.

Some argue privatisation is the best way to ensure everyone gets access to clean water, but others argue that water should be provided by the state.

And what happens when more than one country lay claim to the same water? Will nations take up arms over water in the wars of the future?

Do you live in a water-scarce region? How do you think this most precious of resources should be managed? Send us your views and experiences.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinions we have received:

This most precious and basic of resources should be managed by the state
Clive Graham Smale, Laoag City, Philippines
I live in an area which has very definite wet and dry seasons. The monsoons set in from June to September each year. We rely on artesian water which generally lasts all through the dry season during which we see no rain for up to 5 months. Each house has its own deep well but commercially piped water is available. I think that this most precious and basic of resources should be managed by the state, exclusively. It cannot be privatised and left to the voracious private sector for profit.
Clive Graham Smale, Laoag City, Philippines

The majority of countries affected by such shortages are governed by corrupt regimes that can not be trusted to run a bath. Ploughing money into their infrastructure is money down the drain.
Steve Johnson, England

Why should Africa be drought-ridden when it is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian oceans?
Harry Webb, Broadstairs, UK
I live in the South East of England and most of us are well aware of the problem of managing water resources - both flood and drought. Whether or not we can recall it, most of us have been advised at one time or another as to how to conserve water. Unfortunately, Africans in particular do not have our resources. Or do they? Why should Africa be drought-ridden when it is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian oceans? If oil companies can build huge refineries and trans-continental pipelines, then why can't they build huge desalination plants and trans-continental pipelines? Problem solved.
Harry Webb, Broadstairs, UK

There is enough water if it is equally shared. The IMF and the World Bank should give loans or grants for water development projects.
Bagira iwabo, Kigali

How we use water in Massachusetts will make no difference to people in Arizona or India
Peter Nelson, Boston, USA
Kenley Donaldson complains that we don't think of water as "one great whole". That's because it's not. How we use water in Massachusetts will make no difference to people in Arizona or India. Attempts to make suburbanites watering their lawns in developed nations feel guilty because Ethiopians suffer from drought are ludicrous.
Peter Nelson, Boston, USA

I am pretty fed up with having to answer for my way of life just to justify it. I live in a society that is peaceful, pretty well off, and resourceful. Why then am I being quizzed as to the recourses of the Third World? The West has been putting trillions into Africa which was used to enrich those in power and buy weapons. This needs to stop so that the people of the continent can then learn to help themselves!
Russ, UK

When will common sense and a spiritual dimension of life triumph over greed?
Kenley Donaldson, Casa Grande, Arizona, USA
Water is classified with adjectives such as renewable, ground or surface. This disingenuous system supports the concept that this life-giving liquid is not part of one great whole. Underwritten by the greedy developer-government complex, the balance of natural life, farming and family life is fractured. When will common sense and a spiritual dimension of life triumph over greed?
Kenley Donaldson, Casa Grande, Arizona, USA

Here in Bermuda every house has to have its own water tank. Our tank is just over 10,000 gallons. Mind you we get over 65 inches of rain water a year. This is caught on the roofs and stored in the tank below the house. If you run out, a water tanker will deliver 900 gallons for about $60 to $65 US dollars. I know that many countries have little rainfall, but if they had ways of collecting and storing it maybe this would help.
Charles Barnard, St. George's Bermuda

Until recently, we lived outside Halifax, the capitol of Nova Scotia. While we were there, we became very aware of water, its availability and the likelihood of contamination. Most homes outside the border of the city of Halifax drew their water from wells situated on their own property. It was advisable to have your water tested for contaminants, every year. From my experience of living in Australia, California and Canada, I never take clean water for granted.
Pat van der Veer, Merseyside, U.K.

Wasted water is not lost
C. Hunter, Bedford, England
People make far too much of the "water wasting" issue. Wasted water is not lost. After going down your drain, soaking into your lawn, or whatever, it rejoins the eco-system and is recycled naturally. The perceived water shortage problem is caused by the fact that the people who are short of water are not where the eco-system distributes it. That, I fear, comes with living on a planet which has no sense of altruism and doesn't care how thirsty you are.
C. Hunter, Bedford, England

To Robi Neupane from Nepal: I was one of the authors of that report. I am sure that it will be just the first of many, and that they will improve over time. And I hope that, like the first edition, they will all have a strong input from Nepal. Solving the world's water crisis within 12 years needs about 20 billion USD a year - about half of what Americans spend on pet food, or a third of what Europeans spend on ice-cream. And do we know which country spends least on its contributions to international development as a percentage of GDP? It is a big country, often in the news.
Andy Bullock, Ledbury, UK

Will the UN keep water at the top of the development agenda?
Robi Neupane, Kathmandu
The UN system has just produced a World Water Development report. It was claimed that this report is one of the most comprehensive documents on water. As a citizen of one of the poorest countries in the world, I want to know if this publication was a one off, soon-to-be forgotten piece or will the UN produce similar reports in the future and keep water at the top of the development agenda? <
Robi Neupane, Kathmandu

The human race continues to multiply and use up world resources. Although it is water now, it will be something else later. As well as education, we must do something to reduce the world population
Gerry Cuthbert, Lytham St Annes

A great emphasis should be placed on efficient water distribution and usage
Andrew Stamford, Australia
The problem with technological options is that the ecological damage caused by, for example, dam construction is considerable, most notably the three gorges dam in China. And river diversions destroy entire ecosystems, while desalination is not an effective option because of the high energy input required to produce potable water. A great emphasis should be placed on efficient water distribution and usage. The city of Windhoek in Namibia, through necessity, recycles 100% of their waste water with the minimal use of technology.
Andrew Stamford, Australia

I live in a water-scarce island, Taiwan. It's natural land form makes water it hard to collect. When there is not enough rainfall, the government has to re-allocate clean water to ride out the shortage of resources. In my opinion, the solution is to economise on the use of natural resources.
Fan Ju Chun, Taipei, Taiwan

The answer is to fix the local resource problems, not worry about how much water we use here. No-one is going to start shipping UK water to Africa anytime soon. Let's get aid to these countries, but not in cash that can be diverted. Why not just use our money on water and sanitation projects for cities and towns that need them?? No grant and corruption, positive benefits.
John Smith, UK

Can I remind people that water is never actually "used up". Have you never heard of the water cycle? Watering lawns in the U.S. does not cause drought in Africa. Please try to think it through before you blame one country for totally unconnected problems elsewhere.
Ray Gray, London, UK

India will face a huge water crisis, sooner than later, if steps are not taken
V S Narayanan, India
No, we are not doing enough. Instead of pointing fingers, we have to find solutions in each community. India has always had a lopsided situation, in that, if the monsoon is good, then the water situation is good and this lasts until the summer drought sets in. Sri Visveraya, the well known Bangalore architect, has advocated the linking of the rivers in India to combat this. The Indian government is seriously thinking about this but implementation is a long way off. India will face a huge water crisis, sooner than later, if steps are not taken.
V S Narayanan, India

There are technological solutions. Research and development are the answer. Look at Australia, surrounded by water and still dependant on rainfall.
Syd Atkinson, Newcastle, UK

Shock tactics might be the only way
Robyn, Preston, England
Having grown up in drought conditions in South Africa, I was amazed upon arriving in England to see how much waste goes on. Taps are left running unnecessarily to give just one example. I think that people in regions with an abundance of water need to be re-educated. Shock tactics might be the only way.
Robyn, Preston, England

No, we are not. In 1964, despite new reservoirs, Hong Kong's 2 year drought led to water-rationing. Freighters, bringing water, shuttled between Hong Kong and Japan for months, and people had to walk long distances, bucket-in hand to the nearest stand-pipe. Now, we get water (of sewage quality) from China. Southern California is already under pressure, never mind the Middle East.
Dennison E. Kibble, Victoria, Hong Kong

Little attention is paid to the devastation caused in the natural world by excessive water consumption
Edward Krzywdzinski, Australia
A great deal of emphasis is placed on the human aspect of any water resource problem. Yet, little attention is paid to the devastation caused in the natural world by excessive water consumption. Other living things need water to survive, and it is almost obscene to suggest that the human population is above other life. There is very little debate about overpopulation in the developing world and in the West. It is the prime reason for water shortage.
Edward Krzywdzinski, Australia

China labels the Tibetan plateau as the 'water tower', and a number of projects are planned to exploit these water resources such as the south-north water diversion project and the building of dams on upper Mekong for hydropower. But do the poor nomads in Tibet have adequate drinking water? I doubt it. Unless the world realise the threat posed by China to our scarce water resources, nothing will be done.
Tsering, Tibetan

Desalination seems to be the solution
B.A Belal, Amman, Jordan
We in the Middle East, especially in Jordan, suffer from a shortage of clean water. We depend totally on rainfall, and on the water that comes in from other countries by way of assistance. We do not have rivers or enough ground water resources. Desalination seems to be the solution.
B.A Belal, Amman, Jordan

Lack of water in the developing countries is partly a result of the selfish behaviour of the economically "better off" northern countries like the United States. Global warming, for example, leads to higher temperatures which in turn reduces access to water in the countries near the equator. The USA is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, producer of carbon dioxide per capita.
Andrej Repisky, Bratislava, Slovakia

It would cost billions of francs to provide pipe water to every village
Tah Ernest Mbuh, Bamenda, Cameroon
Water supply is still a big problem in most of our rural areas in Cameroon where most people live. In some parts, people don't realise that water is a prime necessity for good health. Some of the rural areas are fortunate to have enough streams and springs, but these in most cases provide unclean water. In others, water is scarce and women or children have to travel long distances to fetch water from rivers, streams or springs. It would cost billions of francs to provide pipe water to every village.
Tah Ernest Mbuh, Bamenda, Cameroon

China is finally doing something about its poor water distribution problem. The new dam will provide flood control and a reliable water source for centuries. The rest of the world should learn from them and the Third World should stop wasting money on corruption and military hardware and start spending it on public works.
Mark, USA

We need to get real about cutting back on our appallingly wasteful use of water
Charli, Australia
The water situation is far more serious than we'd like to admit and will take more than platitudes from a couple of meetings to fix. Firstly, we need to get real about cutting back on our appallingly wasteful use of water. Secondly, we need to educate everyone, not just the kids, about the consequences if we carry on at our current levels of consumption. Thirdly, governments must take more responsibility for the environment. The Murray River fiasco is a perfect example of government reluctance to take action in time.
Charli, Australia

My parents live in one of biggest cities of India - Chennai. Drinking water is supplied sporadically by the city corporation through water tankers. This is the only good source of water. Even this is not drinkable unless boiled. Many people have now resorted to buying bottled water.
Sathyan Subbiah, Chennai, India

Never in my life have I experienced this level of drought or water scarcity in my area. The Indian government and the world should do more to prevent a major disaster. At least, the West is talking about this now.
Aman, India

I live in Papua New Guinea, which had a major drought in 1997. The lesson that should have been learnt, namely the need for cooperation by the subsistence farmers in the bush, passed over the heads of everyone as clan and tribal rivalries continued. Another lesson not learnt was that a developing nation needs government-sponsored hydrological surveys to develop and manage groundwater programmes. Water is too precious resource to let it fall into the hands of private enterprise.
R.H.Findlay, Port Moresby

There is no water crisis. There is a people crisis, that's all. Let's face reality: why shouldn't people in countries which have water use 10 times more than people in poor countries? It's tough, but it's their water, after all.
Michael Adler, Ibiza, Spain

I would like to respond to Sara in Italy's proposal to make more use of desalination. Although, a feasible solution, desalination requires huge energy inputs to yield large volumes of clean water. Its massive energy cost makes it effectively the most expensive mains water in the world and the most environmentally damaging, because of all the 'greenhouse gas emissions' that are produced during the process. Desalination has its place, but it can't be considered as a viable long term alternative to better management of our global water resources.
Nick Fraser, Germany

The solution could be the desalination of sea water
Sara, Italy
Everyone should have the right to use clean water. Water is one of our most important needs and when I find out that a lot of people don't have it I feel a bit guilty. In my region people use about 17 litres of water every day. But we don't realise it! Many industrialised countries have water problems. Maybe we waste too much water but I think that the major cause is that world population is increasing too much. In order to avoid the problem the solution could be the desalination of sea water. Does anyone agree?
Sara, Italy

Three quarters of the earth surface is under water. The real shortage is in the capital needed to build solar powered desalinisation plants and distribution networks. Politics and wars prevent venture capital from getting a decent return on such an investment.
Allen Bahr, Tucson, Arizona U.S.A.

The only solution for people in arid countries is to drastically reduce their populations
James, UK
How much water British people use has no effect on the amount of water in, say, Ghana. Britain is water-rich and Ghana isn't, and that's an issue of climate not economics. The "water crisis" boils down to over-population. There is no way that water-rich countries can ever pipe enough water to the water-poor. The only solution for people in arid countries is to drastically reduce their populations so that there is enough water to go round. This lies in their hands, not in the hands of the West.
James, UK

Most of the people in the powerful countries carelessly throw water away, whereas some of the people in the poor countries long for one drop of water before they meet their parched death.
Lu Mao, Beijing, China

I was taken by the comments from the USA that people affected by scarcity merely "pick up a shovel" and do it themselves. Those who have the resources and the technology must make some effort to help, lest we reap a bitter harvest in the future.
Brent Cameron, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

I'm tired of every nation expecting something for nothing. If people are dying in your nation for lack of water, pick up a shovel and dig a well. Maybe if you try to help yourselves, other nations will help more.
Robert, Wilton, USA

While water scarcity can be an economic inconvenience in wealthier countries, the developed world has sufficient money to enact vast conservation schemes as well as giant water-moving projects (like the aqua ducts of California). The real concern is in the developing and underdeveloped countries. This is where the United States, the EU and the United Nations must work in harmony to alleviate the situation.
Jerry, Houston, Texas, USA

The solution is to use different sources of water for different purposes
Kalyan Reddy, Visakhapatnam, India
The coastal city where I live doubled it's population double in the last ten years. The effects in terms of the depletion of natural water resource are clear for everyone to see. The solution is to use different sources of water for different purposes. We could save the ground water for drinking and use alternate sources like desalinated sea water for other activities. But the challenge lies in enforcing it and changing our habits, which although difficult is certainly achievable.
Kalyan Reddy, Visakhapatnam, India

Seems to me people have this all backwards. The world's water supply cannot sustain the growing population of the planet, so we look to solutions centred on water. Why aren't we looking for solutions centred on population in water-poor areas? Certain parts of the world will always be water-poor, yet people still try to live and breed there. It doesn't make sense to me.
Allen, UK

Blaming golf courses in the west does not help
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey
Is it any surprise that a population of 900 million people will experience water scarcity in a country such as India? Countries with scarce water resources should limit either their population or water consumption per person. Blaming golf courses in the west does not help; because golf courses or excessive residential water usage in the west do not obstruct the natural recycling process of water in our planet.
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey

The world needs a perspective change. If the G8 does not act, then it is up to other nations to take the matter into their own hands. Why has the rest of the world not created a UN for the less wealthy nations? If the G8 do not help Africa, Asia, and South America it is up to them to unite and fight for themselves. Do not privatize water, the rich will then own the liquid of life. Do not wait for the USA or the EU to fix the planet, they have their own agendas.
Chris, Philadelphia

This is an impossible task, we have no control over the global climate
Doug, Scotland
It's all very well plotting graphs and producing reports. If someone can come up with a way to supply clean water to everyone on this planet then they should be awarded the key to the world. This is an impossible task, we have no control over the global climate. Water should be provided by the state but like everything else, water provision will fall into the hands of the regimes that plague Africa. Solve the world's problems and smash every dictatorship and military regime.
Doug, Scotland

I live in India, which is facing water scarcity now. The ground water is depleted and exploited by people. The government hasn't taken any decision yet on whether to increase the ground water level. People are not getting clean drinking water. Rivers and reservoirs are dried up in this summer season, which poses a threat to the supply of drinking water.
P. Anand, India, Hyderabad

Did you know that in Belgium they want to tax you on the rain water you collect? Next they'll make us pay for sunlight. Only solidarity will fix global problems.
Yves Hofman, Mechelen, Belgium

Enough? No way. Most people I know are unaware that there is a problem. On private v government, I say no to privatisation. I am shocked that the world is putting control of the most important resource in the hands of commercial entities interested only in profit.
Derek, New Zealand

The UN will not do anything because they are too weak and too bureaucratic
Colin Keesee, Los Angeles, CA
Backward and oppressive governments cause most of the problems. The UN will not do anything because they are too weak and too bureaucratic. The US will not help because we are getting tired of giving grant money to dictators and watching them spend it on palaces, nukes, and shoes for their wives. Since the only way to help the people is to first remove their governments, we probably won't be doing much more of that because of the anger generated by merely liberating Iraq. Sorry Third World, but if you want help, change your governments.
Colin Keesee, Los Angeles, CA

I guess the problem lies in both, the overuse of the abundantly available water resources in the "civilized west" and the under utilisation of the resources in the overtly populated "poor east". Recently I read an article which claimed that the Indian government is conducting experiments to find if the rain water in the clouds can be used as and when we want it. It is research areas like this that will finally solve the problem of water shortages.
Shyam Bedbak, Kharagpur, India

Two words: population control.
Chris, Massachusetts, USA

If it wasn't for Canada, the entire western US would be running dry
Ezra Teter, Austin, Tx, USA
To those in the developed world who smugly say that overpopulation is the main reason for water shortages: The simple fact is the developed world consumes more than its fair share of water. On any given day here in Austin, I encounter sprinklers watering lawns during the day when most of the water evaporates. The US is a net water importer. If it wasn't for Canada, the entire western US would be running dry by now.
Ezra Teter, Austin, Tx. USA

Having worked with water rights issues in arid portions of the US, I say it takes coordination to stretch your water budget further. It also requires people living in water-poor areas to give up their green lawns and other frivolous water-hungry pursuits. The only thing the UN can do is encourage coordination across international boundaries and TEACH people how to be better stewards of the Earth.
Suzi, New Mexico, USA

People in the developed world are yet to experience what is called the crisis in natural resources. Unless they do so, they are not going to react. In most parts of India, there is a huge water problem especially during the summer. Politicians are yet to respond properly to this. As well as awareness, putting a price on the usage of water and harvesting rainwater are the only solutions.
Biswajit Majumder, India -UK

We need to increase the level of expertise of officials working on water management
Khalid Majeed, Lahore, Pakistan
The city of Lahore is not currently facing water scarcity as such, but it is a fact that the groundwater table is being reduced very rapidly. To increase the level of the water table in Lahore, the government should monitor illegal water connections. Secondly, water can be conserved by imposing water restrictions on users. Thirdly, we will have to look into injecting sewage, after initial treatment, into groundwater sources as it is successfully being done in Israel and South Africa. We also need to increase the level of expertise of officials working on water management.
Khalid Majeed, Lahore, Pakistan

No! We are not doing enough to conserve the world's water supply. While people are dying throughout the Third World due to lack of water, we in the West are using perfectly clean drinking water to flush our toilets. In the future water will become more valuable than oil.
Peter Hewett, Toronto, Canada

Water is scarce. There is already a war between the southern states in India. Conserve water; when there is rain, collect and save it.
Prakash Bharatam, Germany

It is now time to think seriously (and urgently) about research on irrigation management
Mutlu Ozdogan, Boston, USA
The question of sustainability of global water resources hinges on the question of sustainable irrigation. Today, more than 70% of global fresh water resources are used for irrigation. It is now time to think seriously (and urgently) about research on irrigation management and how to export cheap but efficient irrigation technologies to developing countries. Time is running out fast.
Mutlu Ozdogan, Boston, USA

In poor countries underground water is the main source of drinking water. But in many cases underground water is used for cultivation. In a country like India there are many "unauthorized deep tube wells", used for cultivation. This makes the entire region water-scarce. Pollution is also an important reason.
Pradip Chakraborty, Kolkata, India

Call me cynical if you will, but perhaps if we poured less water onto golf courses and more onto arable land, wouldn't this help to alleviate the water-shortages that developed nations are starting to suffer from more and more each year?
Ian, Los Angeles, USA

I live in a region where water is not a problem fortunately. However I do not think it'd be a reason for using too much water when I do not have to. My mother has been teaching me the importance of water since I was born, and now I can understand it by myself every day more. Lots of countries are not as lucky as I am, and I want to live respecting them also because I do think that "respect" is one of the most important values in life. I do not really know what we could do to help those countries - the only thing I'm sure of is that I'll do everything to transmit to my children this important value.
Day, Italy

A global crisis in clean water can be averted
Marco, Boulder, USA
First of all, fresh water rights should be given to everyone. This lack of easy access to clean water is perhaps the greatest cause of death and hardship in our world today. Denial must be confronted. There are criminally wasteful water practices that are widely accepted today. A global crisis in clean water can be averted - simply instruct the political leadership on the value of conserving water, and respecting ordinary people.
Marco, Boulder, USA

I am a Malaysian doing some voluntary teaching in Madurai. Here is a city whose rural area is extensive. There are numerous ponds full of water scattered all over. But people not only neglect them but dump rubbish and sewage into these waterholes. There is great water shortage here and it would help if volunteer groups could contribute to changing these attitudes.
Navaratnam Rama, Madurai Tamil Nadu, India

Poorer nations have a duty to limit the size of their population
John M, Lyne Meads, UK
While the wealthier countries have a moral duty to help poor nations obtain and maintain water supplies, the poorer nations themselves, have a duty to limit the size of their population.
John M, Lyne Meads, UK

It is not up to the world to fulfil the obligation of feudal governments to their own people
Chris Hollett, UK
The Arab countries that own the oil are wealthy enough to provide desalination plants for their people to have drinking water. But they don't. It is not up to the world to fulfil the obligation of feudal governments to their own people. Israel, with the help of a fraction of its $4bn US aid, can easily provide the Palestinians with fresh water. It is more difficult in Africa where violent dictatorships help only their tribal kin. In these places the 'civilised' West really should direct much of its UN resources.
Chris Hollett, UK

Chris Hollett: The oil-rich Arab states (which are a small minority of Arab countries) all use desalination extremely intensively, to the extent that it accounts for most of the water needs of places like Kuwait; but desalination is rather expensive for most Middle Eastern countries and Israel does not "provide" the Palestinians with water, it takes most of the contents of the West Bank's aquifers and leaves the barest pittance for Palestinian farmers. The real water problem of the Middle East is not the amount of water - it's the fact that many of the major rivers, notably the Euphrates and Jordan, run through mutually hostile countries. The only solution is greater regional peace.
Lameen, Cambridge

We need rain water harvesting and to use sea water to flush toilets in coastal areas. 60% of the world population live in coastal areas. We also need an efficient use of water in agriculture.
Krishnamurthy, Hyderabad, India

Why don't the rich Arab countries try to help each other more? I saw some gorgeous green golf courses and green lawns during my years in the wealthy Gulf Arab states. Mind you it rains very little in these countries, so the water must be coming from somewhere. Why are the western countries always criticized for not doing more? Many billions of dollars live in the Middle East. Hold these countries more accountable.
Karen, USA

People in rich countries may use more water but it is then mostly recycled
Joy, USA
The problem with the UN "doing something" about the water shortage (or anything else) is that it would involve the UN, or more specifically the so-called West, taking control of aspects of life in sovereign countries. Also, people in rich countries may use more water but it is then mostly recycled through sewage plants and pumped back out into the original water source, so it is not really wasted.
Joy, USA

The main reason for water shortages in India is population growth. Ground water is now used at an alarming rate. Green cover has been reduced considerably, thus compounding the problem. Economic realities in the current environment hopefully would act as a disincentive for having larger families. A multi-faceted approach is necessary to solve this complex issue.
Vinai Cyriac, Toronto, Canada

Too many human beings and too much waste of water - everywhere
Tony Marshallsay, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
There are only two problems: too many human beings and too much waste of water - everywhere. Solve these basic problems and there will be no need for water to ever be scarce.
Tony Marshallsay, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

No! With the trillions of dollars spent to kill people, we should really be looking at spending trillions of dollars to save people. The rich are too rich and the poor are too poor. This must change in order for humanity to prevail.
Big Hill, Vancouver, Canada

We are experiencing our worst drought, yet Las Vegas has 63 golf courses
Steve Scott, Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is a desert, with a high yesterday of 109 degrees. We are experiencing our worst drought on record, yet Las Vegas has 63 golf courses. Americans are oblivious to how precious water is.
Steve Scott, Las Vegas, Nevada

This most precious of resources should be managed by each state, and not by avid (thirsty?) multinationals. Why don't you investigate why some powerful countries are trying to convince Uruguay to privatise its water resources? Is it because this little country sits on top of one of the biggest aquifers in the world? As most commentators say, "Water is tomorrow's oil" and wars will be fought over it.
Vic Nelson., Montevideo (Uruguay)

Industrial dumping in rivers and a lack of a monitoring system to regulate water resources... make this situation worse
Mohammad Haroon, Dhaka, Bangladesh
In the case of my country Bangladesh, we have enough water but we don't have access to safe water because of mismanagement and a lack of proper sustainable policy. Industrial dumping in rivers and a lack of a monitoring system to regulate water resources, coupled with a lack of social awareness and weak and corrupt institutions make this situation worse. Add to this the international dimension, namely that we don't get our proper share from international rivers which run through India. Mohammad Haroon, Dhaka, Bangladesh

When is it going to be made absolutely clear that water is a finite resource? There is only so much fresh water on this planet, much of it locked up in sources unavailable to us. We in the West are horribly wasteful of a limited resource. Every civilised country should have water meters installed in homes. We can't live without water; it's priceless and we should pay for every drop we use.
Jenny, Isle of Mull

It is not third world nations that are using water the most
Eric Plourde, Montreal, Canada
Water should not be a commodity obtainable in exchange for money. Right now, it is not Third World nations that are using water the most, it is first world nations.
Eric Plourde, Montreal, Canada

Yes, we certainly live in a water-scarce and a water wasting region. We are hoping to use the fog that gathers off the Peruvian coast, which then blows inland and eventually just vanishes into space. Just think of the "oceans" of water lost daily by not using simple methods. We also intend to harvest good clean water from condensation. Our efforts should be of interest to the forthcoming World Environment Day. Let us hope that this time, someone somewhere will be listening to our call for a helping hand.
Anthony Gomez-Cornejo Holley, Arequipa, Peru.

Never allow a corporate entity to control the essence of life
Lanny Caroenter, Olympia, USA
We are already witnessing the use of water as a weapon. The destruction of Iraqi water purification and treatment plants followed by 10 years of sanctions and the Israeli occupation of the water rich areas outside its borders are two very clear examples. Allowing the capitalist model to gain control of the world's most precious natural resource is the fast track to slavery. Provide people with the means to meet their own water needs and never allow a corporate entity to control the essence of life.
Lanny Caroenter, Olympia, USA

I don't know if we have a shortage of clean water. But we most certainly do have a surplus of people competing for fewer and fewer resources which will be our undoing, unless we curb population growth immediately.
Mike, Seattle, USA

I live in an area that has been in a drought for five years, yet the area has supposedly been getting wetter over the past 30 years. Why? The reason is population. What is happening in Utah is a small example of what is happening all over the world. The problem is not necessarily scarcity of water or poor management (though that is a problem), but overpopulation. The UN should be looking at ways to implement zero population initiatives around the world.
Stephen Nielson, Utah, United States

Companies involved in the provision of water and sewerage should be privatised
Maji Uwasa, Tanga, Tanzania
Living in a water-scarce with rationing being a common feature in our community, I firmly believe that the companies involved in the provision of water and sewerage should be privatised. I advocate this because of several reasons, corruption being at the top of the list. The state should, however, provide a subsidy to the citizens in terms of connectivity and per unit consumption.
Maji Uwasa, Tanga, Tanzania

It amazes me that every time there is a mention of scarce resources, the blame falls on America and the UK. Everyone bemoans the fact that Africa in particular suffers the most. Why should the USA and UK pay? Time for Africans to face their own problem.
Mike, Durban, South Africa

Mike: Don't forget that the US and UK have readily used billions of dollars to wage a questionable war. All Western governments need to tackle world issues differently. Contributing to improve such issues as water wastage and shortage in poor countries might not get as much news coverage but is, in the long term, the only real way to make a better world. And possibly limit the reasons for terrorism to thrive.
Elodie, Madrid, Spain

While politicians continue to be diverted by the global warming fallacy, this issue is unlikely to be addressed
Keith, Somerset, UK
According to some estimates, the cost of implementing the Kyoto protocol each year will be as great as the one-off cost of providing clean drinking water and sanitation to every single human being, forever. The problem is not one of water scarcity, but of the availability of infrastructure to store and deliver it. While politicians continue to be diverted by the global warming fallacy, this issue is unlikely to be addressed.
Keith, Somerset, UK

No. This problem falls on the shoulders of powerful governments like the US. Instead of intervening only where their interests are at stake, they could send their marines to dig wells and build irrigation ditches. This will never happen since "internationalism" is a curse word in that country.
Esteban, Asuncion, Paraguay

The best thing that could happen is the privatisation of water companies
G Sudle, Liverpool, England
Having lived in Kenya the best thing that could happen is the privatisation of water companies. Government run institutions can't be held accountable in these corrupt countries. Privatisation will bring in the element of competition and raise standards. Simple schemes eg rain water collecting tanks can be built in deprived areas. Laws need to be introduced to prevent the pollution of the already scarce water resources in these countries.
G Sudle, Liverpool, England

Again we hear "Well, if they spent less money on arms". It makes us feel better about letting millions of children die. These countries were manipulated by both the West and the USSR into going to war with other nations. Now we sit in our leather sofas, drinking Evian, watching these children dying of starvation happily spouting off about the corruption of these governments. How can we give millions to a CEO for being sacked yet complain about giving money to save millions of people?
Vish, UK

It is the poor management that has led to major crises
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Oulu, Finland
I do not believe that water had been a scarce commodity in India in the past, but it is the poor management that has led to major crises. Time and again, there has been extensive discussions about managing the resources in a more subtle and economical manner, but these matters are simply forgotten once the Monsoon sets in. The gullible people have to once again look to the skies whenever the crisis restarts, but the cycle of officialdom and the Monsoon (good or bad) continues.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Oulu, Finland

Governments in these regions must just learn to get their priorities right and so must the UN which claims to represent the world.
Priscilla Lambert, Hong Kong

I am totally disgusted when I see a river or any water source polluted in the name of industry and business. I am from a clean green country but since I started travelling (as a backpacker) I have seen a lot of pollution in many countries. I love the outdoors and so see a lot of inexcusable pollution. Something really needs to done on an international level.
Corey , Invercargill, New Zealand

Not enough is being done because the developed world is not yet feeling the heat from environmental catastrophes
Sarvesh Srivastava, India
The UN does predict acute water shortage, but what is it doing about it? Third World countries are again there to suffer. Our existence depends on natural sources of water and conventional sources of energy which we are depleting at a tremendous rate. Can we not invent a better method of converting sea water into usable water? Can we not use greatly untapped solar energy? Surely, not enough is being done in these directions because the developed world is not yet feeling the heat from environmental catastrophes.
Sarvesh Srivastava, India

It's a real shame that human beings are the biggest menace to the global environment. Look at the water we have wasted. How long do we have to go on like this?
Sam Huang, Bradford, UK

What water shortages? Seriously though, maybe more investment needs to be put into desalinisation, which would provide places like the Middle East with a plentiful supply of water.
Peter, Scotland

No we're not doing enough, but war on poverty is not a priority with the superpowers.
John Smith, London

The two fundamental human rights should be the right to clean air and the right to clean water. Without these rights any other human rights are pointless.
Dominick Reyntiens, Byron Bay, Australia

I do not think that we are doing enough at a global level to avert the looming water crisis. Not many countries have recycling facilities and only a few have efficient management and distribution systems. A recent report on water resources predicts that many of the glaciers will melt by 2040 and many subcontinent rivers will dry up permanently causing mass movement of people. Alarming.
A Hadi Ansari, London, UK

Wasting water is a common practice since it is a free commodity. For city dwellers, governments try all sorts to keep them in good humour, while those living in villages walk miles to collect some water and the media hardly mention it. Parayath Balasundaram, Chennai, India

The only solution is to charge money for water, even in countries such as India and China. This will create an incentive against wasting water and generate funds to build the necessary infrastructure to ensure future supplies.
Shailesh Gala, India and USA

While visiting the West Bank town of Beit Jala in the summer of 2000, I witnessed first hand how invaluable water supply can be to thousands of people. My aunt and her family were without running water for 16 days.
Rolla Khalileyh, Whitby, Ontario, Canada

We, the people, can do much more to combat the shortage of water. Even if there was no shortage of water, it should not be wasted.
Dinil Divakaran, Kerala, India

If water prices were higher in the US there would be more appreciation of that resource
Iwona S, San Jose, CA
Precisely. The politics and economics are the major obstacles in the way of a more equal or just distribution of water resources. Look at the US for instance; water is wasted, taken for granted to an immense degree because it is too affordable. If water prices were higher in the US there would be more appreciation of that resource.
Iwona S, San Jose, CA

Every drop of rain needs to collected. Accurate planning and proper distribution will play a vital role.
Yogesh, Tokyo

A very simple answer, no. We as a global community are not doing anywhere near enough.
Lesley, UK

These countries have a ready supply of salt water and sunshine. The simple solution is solar powered desalination plants. Unfortunately, it would mean having to pay a much higher cost for water, but considering we've plundered and polluted the earth resources for years it is payback time.
Simon, England

Unless sustainable development is embraced, water shortage will persist
Carlyn Hambuba, Lusaka, Zambia
The problem of water is the biggest challenge African governments face. There is a serious need to address the issue of water shortage in the world. This can only be done with the cooperation of the various stakeholders and communities, through sustainable development, to tackle the shortage. Unless sustainable development is embraced, water shortage will persist.
Carlyn Hambuba, Lusaka, Zambia

They should make everyone pay the water rates I was paying when I lived in Plymouth. That would bankrupt most Third World nations. Since being in Yorkshire I've had a hosepipe ban when York was under twelve feet of water! I think water companies are to blame for any shortage, especially in this country. As for the rest of the world, the Institute of Civil Engineers highlighted this problem as a source of conflict a long time ago but did any of the governments listen?
Phill, Sheffield, UK

The UN, other nations and local governments should understand and underscore the significance of water
Igonikon Jack, USA
As a high-school teacher in an African country in the late seventies, I once lived in a rural area with no running or piped water within a radius of about 15 miles. It was easier to give away food than water. Water was borrowed, and had to be repaid. It took years before an artesian well was located underground and had to be tapped through advanced engineering. At the launching ceremony, it was like the arrival of a messiah; something that had not been seen for generations. Water is so important that water rights to the Galilee is one of the stumbling blocks to the Golan Heights talks between Israel and Syria. The UN, other nations and local governments should understand and underscore the significance of water through conservation, pollution control, irrigation and canalization. Igonikon Jack, USA
Igonikon Jack, USA

The Middle East is nearing a humanitarian catastrophe because, among other reasons, the 300 million Arab and Muslim citizens are gradually being deprived of their water resources. Water resources in the occupied territories in Syria, Palestine and Lebanon are feeding the insatiable lust for water of the occupiers, and there are plans to divert the water sources of Turkey in the same direction.
Ahmad Fawzi, UK

The global efforts of sustainability can only be meaningful if leaders of most third world countries are made to understand the centrality of water to any development
Asapo Emmanuel, Stuttgart, Germany
Water availability and use have affected both civilization and development in Africa. The global efforts of sustainability can only be meaningful if leaders of most third world countries are made to understand the centrality of water to any development and adopt policies compatible with their socio-economic situations rather than the option of privatisation.
Asapo Emmanuel, Stuttgart, Germany

I think it's disgraceful that our government along with its ally America, the most powerful country in the world are only interested in their own countries. People might say that it is their job, but since the second world war the US and UK have held the third world practically to ransom with debilitating debts. We need to push for international justice. It's obvious that with the world's wealth, no one needs to go without water.
Paul Driscoll, Liverpool, England

Living in the driest continent, though the least populated, water is in short supply, yet powerful lobby groups such as irrigated agriculture, dominate and continue to with non-sustainable and, frankly, stupid practices. We should know better, but don't.
Joe Mandebvu, Australia

Rather than the Middle East, we see the water crisis as the main issue
Hari, Kathmandu, Nepal
Water shortage is the major concern in developing countries with high rates of population growth. The water issue has been the cause for the construction of structures in the Terai region of Nepal, which violate international dam treaties, submerging little fertile lands of the Himalayan kingdom on the one hand and depriving many of the poor and the marginalised of the Terai region of their land and housing. Rather than the Middle East, we see the water crisis as the main issue.
Hari, Kathmandu, Nepal

Let's hope water does not become a priced commodity like oil. Shabbir, Dubai, UAE

It is the high time to act together before it's too late
Deepak, Koje City, South Korea
Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of the population increase during this century. There remains no doubt about the fact that the pressure on the world's water resources will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. Projections for the next 25 years, based on present population growth rates, indicate a great increase in the number of countries that will experience water stress and scarcity. Today, nearly half a billion people don't have enough drinking water. That number is expected to increase to 2.8 billion people by 2025. It is the high time to act together before it's too late.
Deepak, Koje City, South Korea

The next major war in the Middle East is going to be about water, not oil.
Mirek, Santa Fe, NM, USA

Oil can be replaced as a fuel - but there is no replacement for water
Milligan, Sacramento, California, USA
I agree with Mirek. Water is soon to be scarcer than oil. Oil can be replaced as a fuel. But there is no replacement for water. I live in California. Here voters are exceptionally ignorant of water issues and blindly mark ballots that vote in favour of private and mercenary bodies that are literally 'selling us down the river'! There is not even local recognition of the importance of water conservation and distribution. How can that kind of apathy and ignorance equate to recognition of a global water crisis?
Milligan, Sacramento, California, USA

Isn't it strange how the UN, Nato and the so called developed countries are eager to jump in and help kill thousands, destroy innocent lives and leave many more homeless and helpless in the search of WMD which up to now have still not been found. The real WMD are the major companies polluting our waters and the governing bodies behind their monitoring. We cannot all afford Evian, for some people simple fresh water is all that is needed, so to all the national governments and global institutions including all the countries that took part in the war, let's get back to basics. Jump in and help keep our waters clean.
Eric, UK

The forests that we rely on for soil and water conservation have been cleared with the approval of the state thus leading to perennial water shortage
James Otieno, Nairobi, Kenya
Some governments are doing enough but sadly not Kenya. I say that because the forests that we rely on not only for soil and water conservation but also for water provision have been cleared with the approval of the state thus leading to perennial water shortage. Frequent landslides, flash floods, upsurge of both waterborne and water washed diseases here in Kenya have burdened our health facilities with primitive and preventable diseases.
James Otieno, Nairobi, Kenya

Millions of people die each year from water born diseases. These diseases are not just transmitted by drinking contaminated water but also through the use of non-sterile medical instruments and unclean utensils. Further there are thousands and thousands of people who have limited access to water of any kind. Technology exists to address these issues, especially for removing contaminants from water sources. The solutions are not expensive. The reality is that wealthy countries lack the will to resolve this problem.
Pam, LA, USA

It's time to introduce the market into the picture and privatise
Jeremy, Edmonton, Canada
Obviously some ownership of the water supplies is needed, otherwise a "tragedy of the commons" situation ensues. The real question is who should control it? The government agencies of the developing world have proven themselves wholly incapable of effectively managing the supply. It's time to introduce the market into the picture and privatise. Whatever happens can't be worse than the situation as it stands.
Jeremy, Edmonton, Canada

There is going to be a real shortage of drinking water in the whole world, not to mention third world countries. Politicians should pay specific attention to this problem. Business will not invest in this project because there is no profit.
Baldev, Toronto, Canada

I know this sounds terribly flippant and cynical, but it strikes me as rather odd that the term 'water shortages' can be used on a planet comprised mostly of water.
Patrick Williams, Leatherhead, England

With shortages of fresh water and rivers continuously getting polluted, the future seems to be very dark
Sachin, India
Governments are not paying heed to the potential threat of water shortage. In India, there has been continuous droughts in many states in recent years. With shortages of fresh water and rivers continuously getting polluted by industrial and organic wastes - the future seems to be very dark. Rain water harvesting may solve the problem of drinking water but serious action has to be taken to tackle global warming and decide efficient ways to dump industrial waste and check river pollution.
Sachin, India

No. One problem, for example, is companies that pollute our waters. They simply pay the fines levied against them (if at all in their countries) each year, and keep polluting.
Isaac, LA, CA, USA

The emphasis on water supply must be complemented with water quality. The unregulated use of pesticides, industrial pollution, inefficient or inaccessible treatment of water will have serious economic, social and security consequences.
K Mansoor, Livermore, USA

We are not about to pipe our greatest natural resource away
Martin, Chicago, USA
No, not enough is being done to conserve and preserve water supplies for future generations. Water may even become a trigger for conflicts within nations. Just visit the American Southwest and you will wonder how in the world there could be enough water to sustain such unbridled growth in subdivisions, golf courses, etc. Where will the water come from? Some of these states actually eye the Great Lakes as a potential resource, but we are not about to pipe our greatest natural resource away.
Martin, Chicago, USA

Certainly more needs to be done. What gets forgotten is that 80%+ of water supply use is in agriculture. Water conservation in agriculture should be the focus. Efficiencies are very poor in this area and are not regulated. This is a big problem, but at least it's clear where the focus needs to be to alleviate the problem.
Jeff, Cincinnati, USA


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