March 17, 2009

Leaders Discuss Labels For Certified Sustainable Water

Leaders at the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey are discussing a number of water conservation options that could lead to the labeling of water products that are certified from a sustainable source.

Jonathan Kaledin, Blue Water Certification Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, likened the proposed plan to the one already active among the wood industry.

The Forest Stewardship Council has 12,000 participating companies involved in commercial forestry or use of timber. So far, it has certified more than 100 million hectares (250 million acres) of land as being under sustainable forest management, according to AFP.

"The Forest Stewardship Council exists as a mechanism for certifying wood products as sustainable, and the fair trade system allows consumers to choose products that support and sustain local communities, but no such program exists for water," said Jonathan Kaledin, Blue Water Certification Program Director for The Nature Conservancy.

"The Alliance for Water Stewardship will lead the charge towards development of the first-ever standards to improve the way water is managed around the world."

About 28,000 people are expected to participate in this year's conference. The Forum is hosted by the World Water Council and held only every three years.

Leading into the forum, the third World Water Development Report was issued, stating that $92.4 billion to $148 billion is required each year to develop and maintain water supply systems, including irrigation and sanitation.

Communities in China and Asia alone require between $38 and $51.4 billion dollars each year.

Water supplies continue to be stretched thin as record droughts continue to hit highly populated regions including Australia, China and the US.

"Today, nearly two billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation, while many of the rivers and lakes that sustain human communities are polluted or running dry," the Alliance said in a statement.

"Properly functioning rivers, lakes and wetlands are the very foundation upon which virtually all living things on earth depend, but demands on the planet's available freshwater supplies are at an all-time high, threatening the health of water supplies. By 2030, two-thirds of the world's population will live in geographic regions experiencing severe water stress."

Michael Spencer, director of the Water Stewardship Initiative of Australia, told AFP that the once widely held notion that water was a free and plentiful resource is being transformed.

"That there is a crisis in water is a given, and that we need to address it is a given. That's why there's so much momentum behind developing a global standard," he said.

Spencer said that a label for water from sustainable sources could be introduced within 18 months or 2 years.

Other groups that have joined the alliance include The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Pacific Institute and Water Witness.


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