Most people know the story of the Dutch boy who saved his country by plugging a leaking dyke with his finger until help arrived. For the Dutch, the story had a happy ending, but millions of people living on the world’s coastlands were not so lucky in the past year. First, the tsunami in December 2004 killed over 180,000 people in southern Asia, devastating coastal communities in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives.

Climate change is, to a large extent, water change. Water is the predominant channel through which the impact of climate change will be felt. More torrential rains, floods and droughts can be expected in many parts of the world. Not only that–climate change is reshaping the future for freshwater on the planet. 

©Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

In September, the Kenyan government and the United Nations announced the discovery of huge underground reserves of water in northern Kenya, enough water to last the entire nation for 70 years. The Lotikipi Basin Aquifer and Lodwar Basin Aquifer were located by satellite in drought-afflicted Turkana County, where water scarcity and competition for grazing land has led to deadly cattle raids between communities. 

The EU’s ban on discarding caught fish in February 2013 has received widespread applause. Why?

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“We’re going to run out of water much much earlier than we’ll run out of oil,” warned Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestlé, at the OECD Forum in May 2012.

©REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

New York is investing in a greener, cleaner future.

©REUTERS/Stringer Shanghai

Common sense and dealing with the right people would help unblock badly needed investment in water in developing countries. Mr Briscoe explains. 

If America’s great civil works such as the Hoover Dam, the Grand Coulee Dam or the Tennessee Valley Authority were proposed today, they would most likely remain ink on paper.

On 8 September 1854, London health authorities removed the handle of a water pump located at the juncture of Cambridge and Broad Streets. The well was famous in the city for the sweetness of its water, apparently used as an ingredient in a “celebrated nectar”.

Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, leads inauguration of a drinking water plant in 2010 ©Alfredo Guerrero/Notimex/AFP

OECD Observer: You are launching Water Agenda to 2030. What pressures led to these reforms?

In the last edition of the OECD Observer we showed how investing in a gas-based kitchen can save lives. The simple water closet can also be a means to good health and dignity, and a source of economic wellbeing, says a new OECD report, Benefits of Investing in Water and Sanitation.

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