By Hana Namrouqa

DEAD SEA – Water experts on Tuesday called on governments to apply cost-effective water demand management in light of shrinking water resources around the globe due to surging populations and changing climates.

The experts agreed that sustainable solutions for the looming water crisis, represented by responsible and efficient water demand management systems, are the key for addressing water scarcity.

During the sixth International Water Association (IWA) Specialist Conference on Efficient Use and Management of Water (Efficient 2011), which opened at the Dead Sea yesterday, more than 500 water sector experts brainstormed on how to manage scarce water resources for drinking, agriculture, environment and industry growth purposes.

HRH Prince Feisal, chairman of Efficient 2011, underscored during the conference’s opening ceremony that insufficient water supply will result in lower production of food and energy.

Prince Feisal, who deputised for His Majesty King Abdullah, noted that over the past six decades the world population has increased from 2.5 billion to over 6 billion, which imposes further pressure on water, a basic human right.

He emphasised that climate change, which is altering rainfall patterns, coupled with a rapid human industrial development, is worsening the water situation globally.

“The world is only now waking up to a frightening new reality, a new global challenge: the growing gap between the demand for water and the diminishing availability of water,” added Prince Feisal, who is chairman of the Royal Water Committee.

He underscored that water supply by the end of the 20th century evolved to become a global issue, one that is not only socially, politically and human rights-related, but a security issue.

“… Indeed, many experts now believe that water could become a flashpoint for regional instabilities,” the Prince said.

He expressed hope that the Efficient 2011, an international water event held in Jordan for the first time, will help come up with activities that integrate water demand management concepts and practices in the region.

During the five-day event, experts will explore the impacts of drought, climate change and water loss among other global challenges on water resources and come up with recommendations on incorporating water demand management in urban water planning.

The conference, organised by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, USAID and the IWA, seeks to shed light on the current global water crisis and find solutions to water challenges, particularly for countries that suffer from water scarcity such as Jordan.

Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Najjar pointed out that the conference is being held at a vital time and place, referring to the dropping levels of the Dead Sea.

“Rising water stress levels around the globe are undermining the continued efforts towards achieving sustainability of ecosystems, societies and economics,” he noted during the opening ceremony.

The minister added that Jordan, the fourth water poorest nation in the world, is drawing up corrective water policies and innovative solutions that adopt a supply-oriented approach to water management.

USAID Acting Mission Director Dana Mansouri said water scarcity is emerging as one of the greatest challenges of the current time, noting that growing populations, expanding economies, and climate change are putting fresh water resources under increasing pressure in many parts of the world.

“Today’s solutions to water scarcity are three: to transport freshwater in at great expense; to create fresh water from salt water at even greater expense; and to use water more efficiently, which actually saves money,” she highlighted.

Efficient 2011, which will run through April 2, features an exhibition of 32 local and international exhibitors, including contractors, consultants and companies in the water sector.