President Obama isn't the only one visiting Stockholm this week; about 2500 delegates from around the world have gathered at the 23rd Annual World Water Week meeting sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute. Stockholm has become a global focal point for the discussion of all-things-water. This year's theme is collaboration and partnership.
There are many topics being discussed this week, but three themes for me [David S. Beckman] have emerged so far.
1. The water world is grappling with its role post-2015, the date set for achievement of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. MDG Goal 7.C called for halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, a goal that the UN says has been met.
2. Public-private partnership is another theme so far. Representatives from a range of Fortune 500 companies are walking the halls and discussing their efforts to partner with governments and civil society representatives to address water issues -- often, as they acknowledge, to hedge the increasing water risks that impact supply chains.But one item from the Water Week website really struck me:
3. Green Infrastructure, sometimes more broadly called green design, is getting deserved play here as a way of thinking and of designing holistic solutions to water challenges. Using nature, instead of fighting it, to improve water supply and quality is a hallmark of green infrastructure approaches, which have in common making urban environments function from a water perspective more like the natural environment.
What should be the price of water? As the world's population grows fast, there will be even more of us to share an already limited amount of water. Paying for water will inevitably be a part of life. But, who should pay and what sort of water use should we pay for? Should we pay for washing our clothes? For cleaning our cars? Should a farmer pay to irrigate his lands?
As someone who has lived in California nearly all of his life, and has been paying for water all of his life, including ever rising water rates, the answer has to be yes. We have to pay for water just as we need to be paying for every resource and the disposal of all wastes (yes, we also pay sewage fees and land fill fees).