Daily Archives: April 3, 2015

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This Was the Real Hero of the Nigerian Elections

Earlier this week, history was made in Nigeria. The country’s first ever democratic transition of power between an incumbent president and a challenger took place through what is largely recognized as a free and fair election. This achievement is significant not just for Nigeria, but matters much beyond Nigerian borders. Indeed, Nigeria just set the bar for other countries, particularly in Africa, where struggles around democratization and elections are posing serious challenges. In this context, many have hailed Goodluck Jonathan, even going as far as saying that his “finest action” in office was conceding to Muhammadu Buhari. And while Jonathan certainly deserves praise for his decision not to challenge and accept the results, it’s important to also acknowledge that, had the election not gone smoothly – and many were prepared for a much darker scenario – there might not have been this opportunity for Jonathan, and all of Nigeria, to accept the validity of the results. This is why the chairman of the Nigerian election commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, deserves to be acknowledged, and praised, for having managed to deliver a free, fair, transparent election. He was the true hero of #NigeriaDecides. And Nigerians on social media have certainly noticed.

Elections are massively complex operations. In Nigeria, the responsibility to manage the overall electoral process rests with INEC, a national level, independent organization, which is tasked with the management, coordination and delivery of the election. In Nigeria, there are approximately 120,000 polling locations scattered across the country. Each and every single one of these polling locations needs not only to be staffed by competent, reliable individuals, but ballots, urns, and other materials need to be delivered, in time, to all of these locations.

Nigeria is a huge country, and some parts sorely lack infrastructure, making this deployment particularly challenging. Ballots, for example, must be kept securely and must not be tampered with, a very challenging exercise in a country which experiences political violence on an almost daily basis. Furthermore, under Jega, Nigeria implemented new technologies, such as the geospatial mapping of polling locations, linked to electronic voter registration, which adds another layer of complexity to the process. In contrast, in the United States, elections are handled at the county level, with some coordination at the state level. Los Angeles County has the highest number of registered voters in the country, 4.5 million, which is less than 10% the number of registered voters in Nigeria.

While contending with these logistical challenges, Jega also had to maintain composure while under a significant amount of pressure. Both major parties, at some point or other, accused him of impropriety. Even as the results were coming in, in what could have become a dramatic moment in the election, Jega was challenged by one of Jonathan’s political allies, Godsday Orubebe, who publicly berated Jega and tried to derail the results collation process as trends were showing that Jonathan was losing.
Jega did not lose his composure, and told Orubebe to take his complaints through the proper channels, and continued on with the careful, methodical announcement of the results.
Even though there were some issues in the voting process – some polling locations had to close, other polling locations were poorly staffed and managed, and technology issues affected others – Jega in the end delivered a free, fair, transparent election, allowing Nigerians to express themselves in a meaningful way through their vote. For that, Prof. Jega has earned the respect and admiration of Nigerians. He should also be held in high esteem by the rest of the world for his crucial role in enabling the success of Nigeria’s first truly democratic election.

Discussion

comments…

Nurturing our water empire

The 7th World Water Forum will take place at Daegu, Korea from 12 to 17 April 2015. Water is an important public policy challenge, and the OECD will have a strong contingent at the conference. Here is some food (and water) for thought.

Aqua Appia was an aqueduct built in Rome in 312 BC. It was the first of 11 aqueducts to be built over 600 years. They provided water for irrigation, fountains and drinking, were able to fill and empty lavish baths and latrines, and kept Rome’s streets clean.

Aqueducts sprang up all over the Roman Empire to transport water to the mills, mines and farms that underpinned Rome’s prosperity. Aqua Appia channelled water to a cattle market. Access to fresh water and sanitation lay at the heart of the Roman Empire’s strength. Julius Frontinus, a first-century water commissioner, described the unique contribution in his book, De aquae urbis Romae (The waters of the city of Rome): “an array of indispensable structures carrying so many waters; compare if you will, the idle Pyramids or the useless though famous works of the Greek.”

The aqueducts were built for a reason: the population was growing fast, and groundwater wells and the Tiber had become polluted. Disease was rampant. The aqueducts were both a fast solution and a long-term investment, and a few are still partly in use today.

The world of the 21st century faces far greater water challenges than Rome, though timeless lessons can still be drawn.

Water, like air and food, is our life support. It covers about 70% of the surface of our planet. However, only 2.5% of that is fresh water. It is the only fresh water in our solar system and possibly in our galaxy-in actual fact it is the same water as in Ancient Rome. There is probably plenty of it for present and future needs-the total amount of water vaporised in a year to feed the world’s population would fill a canal 10 metres deep, 100 metres wide and long enough to encircle the globe 193 times. But as the Romans eventually found out, it will be spoiled without the right management, conservation and investment.

A key challenge is to improve access to clean water. Access to clean water is a human right, but hundreds of millions of people are deprived of that right. How water resources are managed affects access rights, and conditions social and political relations throughout the world. Add in threats such as climate change-flooding, drought, ocean acidification-and pollution from the likes of cleaning products and medicines, nutrients and pesticides, and industrial and domestic effluents, and it is not hard to see how serious a challenge water policy is. Indeed, the prospect of water becoming an arena of human strife and division, even conflict, seems realer every day.

Yet, water holds huge potential for economic, social and individual betterment. As the Romans understood, it is a source of life and prosperity, and a source of opportunity for investing in humankind’s future progress.

A matter of economy

A world economy that is four times larger in 2050 than now, with over 2 billion additional people, will clearly need more water. Global water demand is projected to increase by around 55% in that time.

Water demand in OECD countries is actually projected to fall somewhat, from 1,000 km3 in 2000 to 900 km3 in 2050, thanks largely to efficiency gains and a structural shift away from water-intensive sectors. But water demand is projected to increase sharply in the emerging economies, from 1,900 km3 in 2000 to 3,200 km3 in 2050, and most of their populations will live in severe water stress zones.

Demand will double to some 1,300 km3 in the rest of the world, particularly in cities, where most of the global population lives, making water investment and governance in cities particularly crucial.

Take access again. As many as a billion people drink unclean water every day. Over 350 million in Africa do not have access to clean water, along with nearly 200 million in Asia and a similar number again in the Middle East. In Latin America, some 36 million have no access, and even in developed countries some 9 million people are without proper access. By 2050, these numbers will be higher unless action is taken.

Clearly, good governance can help resolve many of these problems. The trouble is, in our fast-moving world, policymakers struggle to keep up with rapidly expanding demand: in vast megacities, such as São Paulo, Brazil, millions of people face water supply shortages, despite Brazil’s being a water-abundant country, whereas drought is affecting the vast irrigated land of California, which is one of the world’s richest economies. Water infrastructure is creaking and leaking in developed countries everywhere: the newly created Irish Water recently estimated that at least 40% of drinking water in Ireland was leaking from the system, which would demand decades of investment to repair. Water pollution affects all countries. In richer ones, despite costly treatment to remove nutrients and pesticides to meet drinking water standards, protect fisheries and the like, pollution loads from rural and urban sources, from fertilisers to polluted run-off from streets and car parks, remain a threat to humans, animals and plants. In rural France, people’s water bills indicate if the water is safe to drink or not; in Korea, despite good water treatment, people have turned to bottled water instead.

In poorer counties, untreated water is a major killer: over three-quarters of a billion people die every year from water-related diseases, including diarrhea. The UN believes that 10% of the global disease burden would be reduced by better water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

It should not be that way. On the contrary, our water systems could become the harbinger of inclusive, innovative growth. How? The answer lies in understanding and marshalling demand and supply in smart, participative and innovative ways.

Farming today

Take a closer look at how that 55% increase in water demand by 2050 will be broken down. Most of it will be from a rise of 400% in demand by manufacturing, over 140% in electricity generation and 130% in domestic use.


Click to enlarge

Farming already accounts for some 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, and has little scope to expand as other activities take a higher water share. Yet we need water to produce food. Crop evapotranspiration (not including water for food processing and preparation) consumes about a litre of water to produce one calorie; an adult in OECD countries needs 2,000 calories per day. A fifth of this water is irrigation water (both ground and surface water) for agriculture.

So how can world agriculture raise production to meet higher demand-70% higher by 2050?

Not all countries face this challenge: Canadians use far less of their total water than, say, Koreans: Korea is the OECD’s most densely populated country, and its delicate water balance is a concern for policymakers. In Spain, national indicators conceal unsustainable use in some drought-prone regions; and in parts of Germany, France and the US, crop intensity saps the soil dry, demanding even more intensive treatment. Meanwhile, seasonal and local fluctuations in water tables can oscillate wildly, as destructive summer and winter flooding in the UK has shown.

Global warming is partly responsible: in hotspots like northern Africa, India, China, parts of Europe, the western United States and eastern Australia, the reduction in water for irrigation could be dramatic. A study in Chile estimates that climate change could dry freshwater flow to decrease on average in all river basins by 35% between 2041 and 2070.

Clearly infrastructure investment, innovation and efficiency in extracting, conserving and distributing water will be priorities for farming to keep up with the needs of hungrier, expanding economies and populations. Moreover, a mix of more responsive spatial and economic management, as well as stakeholder engagement, would help mitigate if not completely overcome these constraints. Different approaches may be required for different contexts. One city, Auckland in New Zealand, amalgamated its district councils to better address urban encroachment on freshwater and marine resources, whereas San Francisco, California, decentralised its water treatment systems to secure water and waste-water services.

Cities generally are an important focus of any policy action. In rural areas, water policies clash with strong lobbies, and are often tangled up in disputes over regional policy, nature conservation and local unemployment. Half the world’s population lives in cities, which frequently have the eclectic mix of political institutions, investors, civil society players and collective determination to make a difference. From San Francisco to Sydney and Auckland to Seoul, several cities are leading the way in trying out new forms of governance, innovative green technologies and tough regulation. As one OECD Observer article letter-writer pointed out, at this rate cities, not the countryside, will be the cleanest places on earth to live. Not a pipe dream, but there is a long way to go.

Energy is another heavy user of water. Water is used to cool power plants, extract fossil fuels and produce electricity. Coal, natural gas and nuclear fuel cycles require substantial water per megawatt-hour. And though water use appears lower for electricity generated by solar and wind sources than for thermoelectric generation technologies, manufacturing geothermal, photovoltaic and wind power facilities requires a lot of water. Even hydroelectric stations carry heavy water footprints, largely from evaporating reservoirs, though much of the water is recycled through the system. As this is unlikely to alter in response to water scarcity, efficiencies and better management will be key.

What can be done about such challenges? A combination of regulation, water pricing, investment, innovation and governance is needed. Regulations can draw vital red lines to prevent excessive or toxic pollution for instance, by imposing fines and even penal sentences. Some regulations, such as the requirement for filters in effluent pipes, can impose additional costs on firms, but if well designed, can encourage innovation in treatment technologies that do not hurt-and may even boost-productivity.

It is harder to arrest someone for, say, hosing the cricket pitch or taking too many showers. Water pricing can help control water consumption and generate revenue to invest back into the system. Introducing water charges is not easy politically even when stakeholders are engaged, as the Irish government has been finding out as it faces protests against its new water charge policy. The principle for charging for water is crystal clear: yes, access to clean water is a right, but it is not cost-free. Even very poor people in developing countries see paying as an assurance that treated water is cleaner than in local rivers. Again, governance and administration matter: charging can help with holding water authorities to account. Public support is best achieved at design and implementation stage, avoiding remote corporate approaches, and by showing results in terms of efficiency and hygiene.

Innovation is also vital: drip-emitter technologies and smart irrigation in farming, smart water meters and heating systems for buildings, and systems for capturing and controlling run-off and waste water. San Francisco and Tokyo now encourage alternative non-potable water sources, such as rainwater and storm water, for instance for large buildings and sports stadiums. New York is using a “green” infrastructure, notably storm-water capturing surfaces, to improve waste-water flow to its treatment plants, which handle 1.3 billion gallons of waste water on an average dry day (see OECD Observer reference below). Desalination is also an area being developed, notably in Israel (see here).

What about governance? This issue is explored in the next article; suffice it to say that flexible, forward-looking, joint innovative approaches are needed. Politics may be local, but water supply and demand rarely respect boundaries between countries, regions or sectors, and everyone has a stake. Much will depend on the level of ambition and co-operation policymakers are willing to show.

A high road to progress

There is a way forward. The first thing to do is to secure access to safe water supply and sanitation to all. The economic, social and environmental benefits would be enormous: the World Health Organization puts the cost of inadequate water supply and sanitation at US$260 billion per year; in some African countries, these losses amounted to 10% of GDP.

Steps should be taken to protect water users, the economy and ecosystems against risks of scarcity, flooding, pollution, etc.

This will require investment, with a priority given to improving resilience to water variability, such as by sharing water-use more efficiently among agricultural, energy and industrial sectors; upgrading irrigation infrastructure; improving water disaster prevention and mitigation; protecting ecosystems; and diversifying economic activity. The choice of investment should incorporate long-term plans for economic and social development, and while based on robust decision-making criteria, remain adaptable to shifting conditions.

Innovation is clearly essential, and can be promoted by policies that make wastage and pollution more costly, and coax new practices among those users who generate liabilities, such as in heavy industry or energy. Policies and institutions which bolster existing water users and current technologies can make it harder to respond to new challenges in the future, and should be addressed.

As for financing, there is no generic model, and though the public sector plays the lead role in funding water services in most countries, other sources can be tapped, ranging from major long-term institutional investors down to household investments in water-saving equipment.

The level of governance, whether local, national or transborder, will also have an effect, depending on hydrological conditions, capacities to invest, those affected, and so on. The international community has a particular role to play in assisting vulnerable regions, weaker economies, or populations with difficult hydrology and transborder watersheds.

The environment is our natural capital, and from water can spring a truly better future. Just as engineers showed remarkable foresight when planning Rome’s aqueducts, a water vision for the world would do a great service for the civilisation of tomorrow and show a commitment to the pale blue dot that is our earth. Julius Frontinus would raise a flask of aqua to that.

Xavier Leflaive of the OECD Environment Directorate advised on  this article. 

References

OECD (forthcoming), Drying Wells, Rising Stakes: Towards the Sustainable Management of Agricultural Groundwater Use, OECD Publishing.

OECD (forthcoming), Policy Approaches to Droughts and Floods in Agriculture, OECD Publishing.

OECD (2015), Water and Cities: Ensuring Sustainable Futures, OECD Publishing.

OECD (2015), Water Resources Allocation: Sharing Risks and Opportunities, OECD Publishing.

OECD (2015), The Governance of Water Regulators, OECD Publishing.

The OECD Water Governance Initiative

Securing Water, Sustaining Growth, report for the OECD/GWP Global Dialogue on Water Security for Sustainable Growth.

Fit to Finance?, report for the OECD/WWC High Level Panel on Financing Infrastructure for a Water Secure World.

OECD (2012), OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050, OECD Publishing.

Water Policy Dialogues (NPDs) in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA), Brazil, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Palestine, Tunisia.

Holloway, Cas and Carter Strickland (2011), “Beautiful waterways for the Big Apple”, in OECD Observer No 286, Q3.

More

www.oecd.org/water

www.oecdobserver.org/water

©OECD Observer No 302 April 2015

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Safeguarding our water empire

The 7th World Water Forum will take place at Daegu, Korea from 12 to 17 April 2015. Water is an important public policy challenge, and the OECD will have a strong contingent at the conference. Here is some food (and water) for thought.

Aqua Appia was an aqueduct built in Rome in 312 BC. It was the first of 11 aqueducts to be built over 600 years. They provided water for irrigation, fountains and drinking, were able to fill and empty lavish baths and latrines, and kept Rome’s streets clean.

Aqueducts sprang up all over the Roman Empire to transport water to the mills, mines and farms that underpinned Rome’s prosperity. Aqua Appia channelled water to a cattle market. Access to fresh water and sanitation lay at the heart of the Roman Empire’s strength. Julius Frontinus, a first-century water commissioner, described the unique contribution in his book, De aquae urbis Romae (The waters of the city of Rome): “an array of indispensable structures carrying so many waters; compare if you will, the idle Pyramids or the useless though famous works of the Greek.”

The aqueducts were built for a reason: the population was growing fast, and groundwater wells and the Tiber had become polluted. Disease was rampant. The aqueducts were both a fast solution and a long-term investment, and a few are still partly in use today.

The world of the 21st century faces far greater water challenges than Rome, though timeless lessons can still be drawn.

Water, like air and food, is our life support. It covers about 70% of the surface of our planet. However, only 2.5% of that is fresh water. It is the only fresh water in our solar system and possibly in our galaxy-in actual fact it is the same water as in Ancient Rome. There is probably plenty of it for present and future needs-the total amount of water vaporised in a year to feed the world’s population would fill a canal 10 metres deep, 100 metres wide and long enough to encircle the globe 193 times. But as the Romans eventually found out, it will be spoiled without the right management, conservation and investment.

A key challenge is to improve access to clean water. Access to clean water is a human right, but hundreds of millions of people are deprived of that right. How water resources are managed affects access rights, and conditions social and political relations throughout the world. Add in threats such as climate change-flooding, drought, ocean acidification-and pollution from the likes of cleaning products and medicines, nutrients and pesticides, and industrial and domestic effluents, and it is not hard to see how serious a challenge water policy is. Indeed, the prospect of water becoming an arena of human strife and division, even conflict, seems realer every day.

Yet, water holds huge potential for economic, social and individual betterment. As the Romans understood, it is a source of life and prosperity, and a source of opportunity for investing in humankind’s future progress.

A matter of economy

A world economy that is four times larger in 2050 than now, with over 2 billion additional people, will clearly need more water. Global water demand is projected to increase by around 55% in that time.

Water demand in OECD countries is actually projected to fall somewhat, from 1,000 km3 in 2000 to 900 km3 in 2050, thanks largely to efficiency gains and a structural shift away from water-intensive sectors. But water demand is projected to increase sharply in the emerging economies, from 1,900 km3 in 2000 to 3,200 km3 in 2050, and most of their populations will live in severe water stress zones.

Demand will double to some 1,300 km3 in the rest of the world, particularly in cities, where most of the global population lives, making water investment and governance in cities particularly crucial.

Take access again. As many as a billion people drink unclean water every day. Over 350 million in Africa do not have access to clean water, along with nearly 200 million in Asia and a similar number again in the Middle East. In Latin America, some 36 million have no access, and even in developed countries some 9 million people are without proper access. By 2050, these numbers will be higher unless action is taken.

Clearly, good governance can help resolve many of these problems. The trouble is, in our fast-moving world, policymakers struggle to keep up with rapidly expanding demand: in vast megacities, such as São Paulo, Brazil, millions of people face water supply shortages, despite Brazil’s being a water-abundant country, whereas drought is affecting the vast irrigated land of California, which is one of the world’s richest economies. Water infrastructure is creaking and leaking in developed countries everywhere: the newly created Irish Water recently estimated that at least 40% of drinking water in Ireland was leaking from the system, which would demand decades of investment to repair. Water pollution affects all countries. In richer ones, despite costly treatment to remove nutrients and pesticides to meet drinking water standards, protect fisheries and the like, pollution loads from rural and urban sources, from fertilisers to polluted run-off from streets and car parks, remain a threat to humans, animals and plants. In rural France, people’s water bills indicate if the water is safe to drink or not; in Korea, despite good water treatment, people have turned to bottled water instead.

In poorer counties, untreated water is a major killer: over three-quarters of a billion people die every year from water-related diseases, including diarrhea. The UN believes that 10% of the global disease burden would be reduced by better water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

It should not be that way. On the contrary, our water systems could become the harbinger of inclusive, innovative growth. How? The answer lies in understanding and marshalling demand and supply in smart, participative and innovative ways.

Farming today

Take a closer look at how that 55% increase in water demand by 2050 will be broken down. Most of it will be from a rise of 400% in demand by manufacturing, over 140% in electricity generation and 130% in domestic use.


Click to enlarge

Farming already accounts for some 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, and has little scope to expand as other activities take a higher water share. Yet we need water to produce food. Crop evapotranspiration (not including water for food processing and preparation) consumes about a litre of water to produce one calorie; an adult in OECD countries needs 2,000 calories per day. A fifth of this water is irrigation water (both ground and surface water) for agriculture.

So how can world agriculture raise production to meet higher demand-70% higher by 2050?

Not all countries face this challenge: Canadians use far less of their total water than, say, Koreans: Korea is the OECD’s most densely populated country, and its delicate water balance is a concern for policymakers. In Spain, national indicators conceal unsustainable use in some drought-prone regions; and in parts of Germany, France and the US, crop intensity saps the soil dry, demanding even more intensive treatment. Meanwhile, seasonal and local fluctuations in water tables can oscillate wildly, as destructive summer and winter flooding in the UK has shown.

Global warming is partly responsible: in hotspots like northern Africa, India, China, parts of Europe, the western United States and eastern Australia, the reduction in water for irrigation could be dramatic. A study in Chile estimates that climate change could dry freshwater flow to decrease on average in all river basins by 35% between 2041 and 2070.

Clearly infrastructure investment, innovation and efficiency in extracting, conserving and distributing water will be priorities for farming to keep up with the needs of hungrier, expanding economies and populations. Moreover, a mix of more responsive spatial and economic management, as well as stakeholder engagement, would help mitigate if not completely overcome these constraints. Different approaches may be required for different contexts. One city, Auckland in New Zealand, amalgamated its district councils to better address urban encroachment on freshwater and marine resources, whereas San Francisco, California, decentralised its water treatment systems to secure water and waste-water services.

Cities generally are an important focus of any policy action. In rural areas, water policies clash with strong lobbies, and are often tangled up in disputes over regional policy, nature conservation and local unemployment. Half the world’s population lives in cities, which frequently have the eclectic mix of political institutions, investors, civil society players and collective determination to make a difference. From San Francisco to Sydney and Auckland to Seoul, several cities are leading the way in trying out new forms of governance, innovative green technologies and tough regulation. As one OECD Observer article letter-writer pointed out, at this rate cities, not the countryside, will be the cleanest places on earth to live. Not a pipe dream, but there is a long way to go.

Energy is another heavy user of water. Water is used to cool power plants, extract fossil fuels and produce electricity. Coal, natural gas and nuclear fuel cycles require substantial water per megawatt-hour. And though water use appears lower for electricity generated by solar and wind sources than for thermoelectric generation technologies, manufacturing geothermal, photovoltaic and wind power facilities requires a lot of water. Even hydroelectric stations carry heavy water footprints, largely from evaporating reservoirs, though much of the water is recycled through the system. As this is unlikely to alter in response to water scarcity, efficiencies and better management will be key.

What can be done about such challenges? A combination of regulation, water pricing, investment, innovation and governance is needed. Regulations can draw vital red lines to prevent excessive or toxic pollution for instance, by imposing fines and even penal sentences. Some regulations, such as the requirement for filters in effluent pipes, can impose additional costs on firms, but if well designed, can encourage innovation in treatment technologies that do not hurt-and may even boost-productivity.

It is harder to arrest someone for, say, hosing the cricket pitch or taking too many showers. Water pricing can help control water consumption and generate revenue to invest back into the system. Introducing water charges is not easy politically even when stakeholders are engaged, as the Irish government has been finding out as it faces protests against its new water charge policy. The principle for charging for water is crystal clear: yes, access to clean water is a right, but it is not cost-free. Even very poor people in developing countries see paying as an assurance that treated water is cleaner than in local rivers. Again, governance and administration matter: charging can help with holding water authorities to account. Public support is best achieved at design and implementation stage, avoiding remote corporate approaches, and by showing results in terms of efficiency and hygiene.

Innovation is also vital: drip-emitter technologies and smart irrigation in farming, smart water meters and heating systems for buildings, and systems for capturing and controlling run-off and waste water. San Francisco and Tokyo now encourage alternative non-potable water sources, such as rainwater and storm water, for instance for large buildings and sports stadiums. New York is using a “green” infrastructure, notably storm-water capturing surfaces, to improve waste-water flow to its treatment plants, which handle 1.3 billion gallons of waste water on an average dry day (see OECD Observer reference below). Desalination is also an area being developed, notably in Israel (see here).

What about governance? This issue is explored in the next article; suffice it to say that flexible, forward-looking, joint innovative approaches are needed. Politics may be local, but water supply and demand rarely respect boundaries between countries, regions or sectors, and everyone has a stake. Much will depend on the level of ambition and co-operation policymakers are willing to show.

A high road to progress

There is a way forward. The first thing to do is to secure access to safe water supply and sanitation to all. The economic, social and environmental benefits would be enormous: the World Health Organization puts the cost of inadequate water supply and sanitation at US$260 billion per year; in some African countries, these losses amounted to 10% of GDP.

Steps should be taken to protect water users, the economy and ecosystems against risks of scarcity, flooding, pollution, etc.

This will require investment, with a priority given to improving resilience to water variability, such as by sharing water-use more efficiently among agricultural, energy and industrial sectors; upgrading irrigation infrastructure; improving water disaster prevention and mitigation; protecting ecosystems; and diversifying economic activity. The choice of investment should incorporate long-term plans for economic and social development, and while based on robust decision-making criteria, remain adaptable to shifting conditions.

Innovation is clearly essential, and can be promoted by policies that make wastage and pollution more costly, and coax new practices among those users who generate liabilities, such as in heavy industry or energy. Policies and institutions which bolster existing water users and current technologies can make it harder to respond to new challenges in the future, and should be addressed.

As for financing, there is no generic model, and though the public sector plays the lead role in funding water services in most countries, other sources can be tapped, ranging from major long-term institutional investors down to household investments in water-saving equipment.

The level of governance, whether local, national or transborder, will also have an effect, depending on hydrological conditions, capacities to invest, those affected, and so on. The international community has a particular role to play in assisting vulnerable regions, weaker economies, or populations with difficult hydrology and transborder watersheds.

The environment is our natural capital, and from water can spring a truly better future. Just as engineers showed remarkable foresight when planning Rome’s aqueducts, a water vision for the world would do a great service for the civilisation of tomorrow and show a commitment to the pale blue dot that is our earth. Julius Frontinus would raise a flask of aqua to that.

Xavier Leflaive of the OECD Environment Directorate advised on  this article. 

References

OECD (forthcoming), Drying Wells, Rising Stakes: Towards the Sustainable Management of Agricultural Groundwater Use, OECD Publishing.

OECD (forthcoming), Policy Approaches to Droughts and Floods in Agriculture, OECD Publishing.

OECD (2015), Water and Cities: Ensuring Sustainable Futures, OECD Publishing.

OECD (2015), Water Resources Allocation: Sharing Risks and Opportunities, OECD Publishing.

OECD (2015), The Governance of Water Regulators, OECD Publishing.

The OECD Water Governance Initiative

Securing Water, Sustaining Growth, report for the OECD/GWP Global Dialogue on Water Security for Sustainable Growth.

Fit to Finance?, report for the OECD/WWC High Level Panel on Financing Infrastructure for a Water Secure World.

OECD (2012), OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050, OECD Publishing.

Water Policy Dialogues (NPDs) in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA), Brazil, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Palestine, Tunisia.

Holloway, Cas and Carter Strickland (2011), “Beautiful waterways for the Big Apple”, in OECD Observer No 286, Q3.

More

www.oecd.org/water

www.oecdobserver.org/water

©OECD Observer No 302 April 2015

Related articles

Speeches: U.S.-Nepal Relations

As Prepared

Namaste and good morning. Thank you for that very warm welcome, and congratulations to NRN-America for all of their hard work convening this event. It’s an honor for me to convey to you the warm greetings of Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal and Ambassador Peter Bodde, and to address a group so dedicated to strengthening United States-Nepal relations. Nepal and the United States share a long history of cooperation, and Nepal has many friends and admirers here in the United States. With over 300,000 people of Nepali heritage living in the United States and 15,000 students studying in U.S. schools, those ties are sure to deepen in the years to come.

Last year I had the pleasure of travelling to Nepal, and I was struck by the beauty and richness not only of its landscapes but of its history and culture as well. On past visits, I have been fortunate to visit Pashupatinath, Swayambunath, Boudhanath, Bhaktapur, and saw the Great Himalayas. But I need to return, because I haven’t yet been to Lumbini, Chitwan, or Mustang!

I’m equally struck by what Nepal was able to accomplish in just a few short years: transitioning from a monarchy, ending a civil war, and launching a new democracy.

Nepal has also come a long way in its development: it met its ambitious Millennium Development Goal for reducing the mortality rate of children under five; in just seven years, it drastically reduced the proportion of its people living in extreme poverty — from 53 percent to less than 25 percent. And it’s a major provider of international security: as the sixth largest contributor of United Nations peacekeeping forces, Nepal is helping bring stability to unstable places around the globe. We are working together to help Nepal combat trafficking in persons and increase opportunities for women, particularly women entrepreneurs. And Nepal, despite its economic challenges, remains a gracious host for tens of thousands of refugees.

Nepal’s progress is a remarkable success story. Of course, there is still a long way to go.

One important opportunity and challenge is drafting a constitution. It is no easy task — during our own constitutional negotiations, nearly 230 years ago, the disputes must have seemed endless: how much power each branch of government should have, how to determine proportional representation, how to choose judges, slavery’s role in the new nation, and on and on. Those were not easy issues to resolve, but through free and open debate and, most importantly, compromise, 13 different entities were able to unite as one.

What our founders agreed on then was not perfect – they left some problems unresolved, for later generations to fix. And, over the years, we’ve altered our constitution dozens of times – it has evolved along with the changing circumstances in our society. So while the United States has also had some bumps along the way, our constitution has stood the test of time, and served as the model for democracies around the world.

So we support Nepal in its efforts to create a new, inclusive constitution — one that protects the fundamental rights of all of Nepal’s people and enjoys the widest possible support. Of course, there will be many hard decisions to make, and those decisions can only be made by Nepalis, but I’m optimistic that this process can lead to a constitution that ensures peace and stability, and, consequently, security and growth.

Because Nepal needs growth: it is the second poorest country in South Asia, and 2,000 Nepalis leave the country every day to work abroad – in fact, so many are working abroad that remittances now account for 30% of Nepal’s GDP. A staggering 70% of the population is under the age of 35 and, unfortunately, many of them don’t have the educational or employment opportunities they need.

The United States is ready to help. Due to Nepal’s democratic progress, last December the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) – made Nepal Compact-eligible, and now MCC, the State Department, and USAID, are working with Nepal to develop a Compact. An MCC compact has game-changing potential to deliver much-needed infrastructure and stimulate greater private-sector investment, particularly in Nepal’s hydroelectricity sector. With over 40,000 megawatts of commercially viable hydropower potential, Nepal could electrify not just the homes and businesses of its own people, but also the homes and businesses of people all over South Asia.

Meanwhile, much of South Asia is taking off. Investments are creating jobs and trade and growth. And if the region can improve its economic connectivity, Nepal can harness itself to that growth. Unfortunately, South Asia is still one of the world’s least economically connected regions: intra-regional trade flows are under five percent, and intra-regional investment flows under one percent. Simply put, South Asians are not trading with or investing in each other enough.

Globalization is shrinking distances between countries around the world, but distances between South Asian countries are staying the same. Why? The Asian Development Bank has identified several key challenges that are impeding connectivity: diverse geographic terrain, bureaucratic barriers, a lack of finance, and low institutional capacity.

The United States is working with governments across the region to address these challenges. Many of our assistance programs focus on improving institutions and governance, streamlining trade regulations, and attracting private-sector investment. And last November, Nepal hosted a successful summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, where the central topic was regional connectivity.

The United States and the countries of South Asia all share a vision of a more integrated region in which markets, economies, and people all connect, thrive, and prosper together. To see the benefits of economic integration, just look at how goods and people can move freely throughout the European Union, or how our free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico has boosted commerce among our countries.

Fostering connections – physical infrastructure, regulatory trade architecture, and human and digital connectivity – will create linkages across Central, South, and Southeast Asia. This is not just strategically important for the countries of South Asia, but also for the United States: we know that security and prosperity in South Asia means security and prosperity here.

As I said before: Nepal has come a long way, but there is still a long way to go, and much work to be done. More schools, hospitals, and roads must be built. Regulations that inhibit trade and investment must be removed, and the entrepreneurial spirit of Nepal’s people unleashed.

And connectivity to the rest of South Asia must be increased. This will not be easy. But with the support of the United States and committed diaspora groups like the Non-Resident Nepali Association, it is achievable.

Thank you again for inviting me to address you. Please accept my respectful greetings and congratulations. I wish you a very successful Third General Meeting and many more to come. Dhanyabaad!

Forecasting future flooding in the Pacific Northwest

Coastal infrastructureForecasting future flooding in the Pacific Northwest

Published 3 April 2015

Unlike the South or East coast of the United States, coastal flooding in the Pacific Northwest comes primarily from large waves generated by major storms instead of hurricanes. The Pacific Northwest is dotted by small, low-lying, coastal cities where populations tend to cluster. These communities can be isolated and are susceptible to devastation from major storms that bring substantial wind, waves, and storm surge. With climate change, it is anticipated that storms will only become more frequent and intense, signifying a need to understand how the areas will be affected.

The Pacific Northwest is dotted by small, low-lying, coastal cities where populations tend to cluster. These communities can be isolated and are susceptible to devastation from major storms that bring substantial wind, waves, and storm surge. With climate change, it is anticipated that storms will only become more frequent and intense, signifying a need to understand how the areas will be affected.

David Hill, a researcher at Oregon State University, is focused on the hydrology and hydrodynamics in coastal areas, which represent the boundary between terrestrial and marine environments. His research on future levels of flooding in Tillamook Bay was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research in January 2015.

This particular project is a blending of our interests in estuarine and coastal hydrodynamics and our interests in climate change,” Hill said. “We’re interested in getting a good quantitative understanding of the extreme water levels we can expect from coastal flooding.”

Unlike the South or East coast of the United States, coastal flooding in the Pacific Northwest comes primarily from large waves generated by major storms instead of hurricanes.

We get big storms here, it’s not uncommon to see wave heights that are ten meters,” Hill said. “Those waves do a couple of things, they can overtop dunes and sea walls. There is also a curious effect where as those waves approach shore and break, they actually push the water up, creating a storm surge effect.”

Storm surge is the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, causing extreme flooding in coastal areas. It is costly, often leading to the damage or loss of houses and businesses, as well as the potential loss of life. A TACC release notes that in a report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate scientists detailed how carbon emissions will impact future climate, and in turn sea level rise. These changes in climate will also lead to an increase in extreme storms and flooding in the future.

Hill and his team of researchers wanted to quantify exactly how flooding will change in the Pacific Northwest on a decadal to century time scale. The researchers developed a novel approach to the issue by using climate data from the IPCC and directly modeling all of the components that cause flooding at the coast including, waves, tides, winds blowing over the surface of the ocean and estuaries, precipitation, and stream flow.

A very big concept lifts off

BlimpsA very big concept lifts off

Published 3 April 2015

In 2010, a group of defense contractors led by Northrop Grumman received a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to create a so-called Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) — a super-sized surveillance aircraft that had the capability of spending days in the air on a single mission. The first test flight of the Airlander took place in August 2012. In 2013, however, budget cuts led to the cancellation of the project, and U.K.-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), which was part of contractors group, bought the Airlander back from the DoD at effectively scrap value. So the Airlander came back to the United Kingdom, where it lives in a giant hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire. It is there because it is the only place in the United Kingdom that can house it, having been built for airship manufacture in 1915. HAH has big plans for it.

It is bigger than a football field, making it the world’s largest aircraft (about sixty feet longer than an Airbus A380). It is a mixture of airplane, airship, helicopter, and hovercraft. It is greener and quieter than other air transport. A larger version is already in prototype. It is all being designed and built in Bedfordshire.

The helium-filled Airlander is the creation of Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), a seven-year-old company which itself was born out of decades of British innovation and research in Lighter Than Air (LTA) craft.

A Release from Business Is Great Britain reports that HAV was able to make the step from initial prototype to the manufacture and test flight thanks to a 2010 contract from the U.S. Department of Defense. Led by Northrop Grumman, the aim was to create a so-called Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) — a super-sized surveillance aircraft that had the capability of spending days in the air on a single mission.

The first test flight of the Airlander took place in August 2012. In 2013, however, budget cuts led to the cancellation of the project. HAV bought it back from the DoD at effectively scrap value.

“We remain on very good terms with the U.S. Department of Defense,” says HAV‘s communications director Chris Daniels. “We continue to share data with them and we expect our dialogue to bear fruit in the future.”

So the Airlander came back to the United Kingdom, where it lives in a giant hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire. It is there because it is the only place in the United Kingdom that can house it, having been built for airship manufacture in 1915.

At present, Airlander 10 can carry up to ten tons and can stay airborne for up to five days. It is envisaged that Airlander 10 might be used for surveillance and communications, for filming, research and survey work.

However, there is (literally) a bigger picture. HAV‘s aim is to transform and disrupt the cargo market by building a craft that will be able to carry 50 tons — the Airlander 50.

This enormous construction will be able to transport goods and equipment literally to all corners of the earth. It can land on water, desert or ice, enabling access to remote and inaccessible places, from the jungles of Africa to the icy terrain of Canada.

This because Airlander 50 transforms a key metric for transportation: the cost per ton kilometer (that is, the amount it costs to carry one ton over one kilometer). For example, a mining company could slash the costs of transporting ore from a remote mine to a processing plant.

By delivering point to point, it will also reduce the frictional costs of transportation. The more borders and ports through which a cargo has to pass, the more it incurs bureaucracy and paperwork and, in many cases, the greater possibility of spoilage and theft of goods. Airlander will be able to travel from source to site. And its environmental credentials mean that it can claim to be the greenest form of cargo transport.

Funding for prototyping
It is for the prototyping and broad technological development of Airlander 50 that HAV secured £2.5 million from Innovate UK alongside investment from a group of private investors.

The development is being led by HAV with other British firms including avionics experts Bluebear Systems and materials company Forward Composites and specialist teams from Cranfield, Liverpool, and Sheffield universities.

Funding to unlock private investment
Hybrid Air Vehicles has also been the recipient of a significant grant from the Regional Growth Fund, in one of fifty-six new awards announced on 12 February 2015.

“We are delighted to have received RGF funding,” says Stephen McGlennan, CEO of HAV. “The commitment of the UK Government to our business is vital, and this will ensure we fly our innovative Airlander aircraft and enter the commercial market. To achieve this we need to create jobs, and the RGF grant immediately helps us to do this.”

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