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The future of water

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A woman gathers water from the Dawa River in southern Ethiopia. With drought sweeping the region, water sources like these are becoming fewer and farther between. Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson / Oxfam America
A woman gathers water from the Dawa River in southern Ethiopia. With drought sweeping the region, clean drinking water sources are becoming fewer and farther between. Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson / Oxfam America

Last night a colleague emailed me a copy of a really powerful speech by Rajenda K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the 2007 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. At the 45th Annual Nobel Conference in Minnesota earlier this week, Pachauri talked about water—a topic that struck me as particularly important right now, given the drought sweeping through East Africa and my own recent experiences visiting drought-affected communities in Ethiopia.

“At one level the world’s water is like the world’s wealth. Globally, there is more than enough to go round. The problem is that some countries get a lot more than others,” Pachauri said.

He also emphasized the link between climate change and water, and the fact that scarce resources can lead to conflicts in already-fragile areas.

“Due to the very large number of people that may be affected, food and water scarcity may be the most important health consequences of climate change,” Pachauri said. “There is no more crucial issue to human society than the future of water on this planet… We must work diligently to see that the worst effects don’t come to pass. We have very little time. Unless we act with a sense of urgency, there will certainly be conflict and a disruption of peace.”

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