What scale for water governance?

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Worldwide debate on water emerging

(press release: http://www.utwente.nl/en/news/!/2015/7/411524/worldwide-debate-on-water-emerging)
UT professor Arjen Hoekstra takes a stand on global water approach in renowned Science

World-renowned magazine Science turns its attention to the worldwide debate on water. This week’s issue of the scientific weekly launches a greater platform for debate on water issues. One of the key players in the debate is Arjen Hoekstra, Professor in Water Management at the University of Twente. He argues that fresh water has become a global resource. His opinion receives a lot of public and scientific praise. However, authors of a second article challenge that thought by arguing that water has always been and should remain treated as a local resource. 

Global arrangements

"We are convinced that water has become a global resource and sustainable use of water will not evolve without global arrangements", says Hoekstra. The Dutch professor was the first to argue that the answer to water issues should be taken to the broader international level. In 2005, the publication of the article Globalization of Water was the stepping stone to the identically titled book in 2008. Hoekstra: “It is good to conclude that our findings receive increasing recognition and have led to worldwide debate such as the debate in Science.” 


“Water management is a central responsibility of civil society”, states Science in its announcement for the debate series, which will have attention for the coming three weeks. According to the journal, major questions persist regarding water management practice and policy. In the first debate, local versus global, the central question is: what is the appropriate scale for understanding and addressing problems of freshwater scarcity and pollution? When, and to what extent, will global arrangements be complimentary to or a substitution for the local approach?


According to Hoekstra and his co-authors, local water problems increasingly accumulate to risks on a larger scale. In a report earlier this year, the World Economic Forum listed water crises as the largest risk to the global economy in terms of impact. Besides, water problems are often not as local as they seem. Declining groundwater supplies, dropping water levels in lakes and rivers and local water pollution are strongly linked to the global economy. Hoekstra: “Water use and its impacts increasingly relate to the production of food, cotton and energy crops meant for export. International trade treaties should be supplemented with binding agreements on sustainable water use.”

More information

Vörösmarty, C.J., Hoekstra, A.Y. , Bunn, S.E., Conway, D. and Gupta, J. (2015) Fresh water goes global, Science, 349 (6247): 478-479.

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