Economic Trends

Water-Smart Society: An opportunity for cooperation to ensure water security in Europe and beyond.

01 Dec 2023

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IBAN: 978-9948-775-07-2

AED 20

In Greek mythology, Tethys, daughter of Uranus and Gaia, is the mother of rivers, springs and clouds. Her name means “nurse”, reminding us of the Value of Water for our environment, society, and economy. If we look at our history, no empire or power was able to ensure its prosperity without water security. The Mataram Empire, the Ancient Egypt or the Aztec Empire developed comprehensive water management systems to ensure prosperity for their peoples.

The concept of water security was defined by the United Nations in 2013 as “the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socioeconomic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.” It clearly highlights the connections between society, environment, and economy while stressing the need for the right quantity and quality of water for the different purposes.

Our societies are highly dependent on water resources. Economically, 78% of our jobs depend5 on water and, consequently, the wealth to afford our quality of life. With a projected global deficit of 56% between water supply and demand, the World Resource Institute points out the risks of water insecurity not only for the environment but also for our economies and societies. CDP Europe stressed in several reports the financial risk for industries due to water insecurity. The cost of those risks is five times higher than the cost of the needed investment to tackle water risks.

How can we then ensure water security through transboundary cooperation? We will explore the case of Europe and its specific transboundary system to strengthen its cooperation and diplomacy related to water risks. In Europe, the instillation of the concept of a Water-Smart Society into the EU forum for water security may provide a key example of good practices that may inspire other regions. Moreover, this paper aims to build upon the debate of panel III: “water security in transboundary systems: cooperation and water diplomacy” of the Symposium entitled: “The Future of Water Security: Challenges and Opportunities for Cooperation,” which was held on March 24, 2022, at Expo 2020 Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and organized by TRENDS Research & Advisory