Putting Water in Rio

While the outcome of the UN's upcoming Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) is uncertain, one thing is not: each of the more than 50,000 participants will take a drink of water. Unfortunately, a few drops spilled on participants’ programs could be water’s most meaningful appearance on the summit’s agenda.

GENEVA – While the outcome of the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) is uncertain, one thing is not: each of the more than 50,000 participants will take a drink of water. Unfortunately, a few drops spilled on participants’ programs could be water’s most meaningful appearance on the summit’s agenda.

Developed-country politicians are merely representing their citizens’ priorities: we, in the developed world, take water for granted. After all, it is cheap and abundant; we never lack enough of it to clean our clothes, manufacture our goods, water our plants, cook our food, or flush our toilets.

But that is not true for the majority of the world’s population. In the developing world, 800 million people have no access to safe drinking water, while 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, daily water consumption averages 10-20 liters, compared to 200-250 liters in Europe and 300 liters in North America and Japan.

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