OPINION

Water, a vital resource under threat

Water is the basis of life. Unremitting use of this vital resource inevitably has an impact on both the quality of the resource itself and the environment as a whole.

As they can quench their thirst by a mere turn of the tap, Europeans tend to forget that water is essential not only to their own lives and well-being but also – and in much greater quantities – as a resource for industry and agriculture. On Earth, water is unequally and unfairly distributed. One billion people worldwide have no access to drinking water within 15 minutes’ walking distance from their home. Although Europe is particularly privileged in this respect, as we have had access to drinkingwater facilities for centuries, this does not mean that we should abuse a resource so often perceived, wrongly, as eternal and inexhaustible. Aside from its environmental and public health implications, water is now an economic, political and strategic issue.

Our quality of life relies on an unseen army of tens of thousands of employees and on hundreds of thousands of kilometres of pipeline, thousands of technical installations and colossal sums of money. In order to cut costs, improve services, enhance water quality and manage water resources effectively, efforts must be focused on research and techno logical development. It takes a vast amount of knowledge and expertise to deliver a simple glass of water. Water is not a perpetual miracle and is facing major threats like climate change, pollution, flooding, drought, wastage and obsolete infrastructure. Unless we change our consumption and production patterns, in the future we will need three planets to sustain our current lifestyle.

These challenges must therefore be addressed, without delay, by applying human intelligence, as well as by raising public awareness, especially among policy-makers – aided in their decision-making by water operators, who are experts in this vital resource.

Pierre-Yves Monette
Secretary General of the European Federation of National Associations of Drinking Water Suppliers and Waste Water Services (EUREAU)
www.eureau.org

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