Interdisciplinary blog

MDR Week: Blog no 11- World Water Day- Can we overcome the global water stress?

March 20, 2013
by Sylvia Szabo

Join Sylvia Szabo for the opening seminar ‘Water quality: addressing global problems at source’ in celebration of World Water Day: Water Cooperation on Friday 22nd March (9-11am The Science Learning Centre Building 29). An insight into the multifaceted field of water cooperation can be found below.


Can we overcome the global water stress?


By Sylvia Szabo



Water stress has recently become a new global challenge, with many resource poor countries facing the threat of water shortages. By “resource poor countries” I do not mean the UN’s Least Developed Countries. Rather I refer to all nations vulnerable to water stress. This vulnerability can result from a number of factors. The growing demand for water is a consequence of urbanisation, population growth, consumption patterns, and also geographical conditions and climate change. Domestic water usage constitutes the smallest proportion of consumed water, whereas agriculture and industry take the bulk of all water required to satisfy the needs of increasing consumption.

At the macro-level water stress can be prevented, in particular in countries which are able to invest in sophisticated methods of water collection and purification, such as water catchment or desalination. The Gulf countries and Singapore are at the forefront of these innovative techniques. These rich states are also able to adequately distribute safe water to their inhabitants. On the other hand, countries suffering from a double burden of resource poverty (water stress and human development deprivation) face severe challenges at both macro and micro-level. In these countries, households are often unable to access safe drinking water, which can result in disease and even death. In addition to water borne diseases, water and sanitation have an important impact on food security.

But can these complex challenges related to water stress be solved? As with other multifaceted phenomena, there isn’t a simple “yes” or “no” answer. An integrated approach and multi-stakeholder engagement is always a good way of tackling problems and a useful advocacy tool. In terms of the role of Science, multi-disciplinary methods of inquiry are likely to enhance applicability of findings. Here, the relevant disciplines include demography, development studies, geography and engineering. Recalling Julian Simon, the power of human capital will ultimately allow to suggest adequate policy and technical solutions. Greater transparency resulting from the use of information technology, including social media, provides hope that innovations will be shared across the globe. If human progress enables the narrowing of the ingenuity gap, water stress can also be eradicated.


This event is in association with the Sustainability Science at Southampton USRG. For full details, please visit: or follow us on Twitter @Sustainscience


Further details about the UN World Water Day, including a water infographic and news of the very first annual Water Usage Survey, can be found at UK bathroom retailer


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Categories: #MDRWeek, Blog, multidisciplinary research, and Multidisciplinary Research Week. Tags: #MDRWeek, Sustainability Science at Southampton, Sylvia Szabo, and UN World Water Day.