Water has always been an important part of the global policy agenda, owing to its necessity as survival tool. The growing trend towards rapid urbanisation that has occurred over the last few decades, however, has led to water increasingly becoming a resource which is at the core of sustainable development thinking.
On October 31, 2011, the Population Division of the United Nations declared that the world is now inhabited by over 7 billion people. Of these 7 billion, over half live in cities, with this figure expected to increase to more than 70% by 2050. The rapid growth of city population size, and density, is putting much undue stress on water resources, resulting in the United Nations emphasising the need to rethink city development, not as an objective in itself, but instead as a means of delivering a sustainable resource management solution.
At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, held in June 2012, the UN concluded that, “We stress the need to adopt measures to significantly reduce water pollution and increase water quality, significantly improve wastewater treatment and water efficiency and reduce water losses. In order to achieve this, we stress the need for international assistance and cooperation.”
With water resource management firmly fixed on the international agenda, technological innovations are likely to be at the forefront of solving the water shortage problem. Smart meters, for example, which are to be piloted in Malta, allow for the optimisation of water and electricity consumption through loss reduction, remote management and real time consumption analysis.
The future of effective sustainable development may be unclear, but, one thing is for certain, water is finally being recognised as one of the resources at its very core.