Pollution, worsening quality focus of World Water Week

Around 2,500 experts begin gathering in Stockholm for the 20th edition of World Water Week.

Updated: Sep 05, 2010, 15:35 PM IST

Stockholm: Increasing water pollution and dwindling water quality around the globe will be the main focus as around 2,500 experts begin gathering in Stockholm on Sunday for the 20th edition of the World Water Week.

"Driven by demographic change and economic growth, water is increasingly withdrawn, used, reused, treated, and disposed of," organisers cautioned in their introduction to this year`s conference.

"Urbanisation, agriculture, industry and climate change exert mounting pressure on both the quantity and quality of our water resources," they added in a statement on the conference website.

The meeting, which kicks off today and is scheduled to last until September 11, will draw experts from around 130 countries to discuss the theme: `The Water Quality Challenge -- Prevention, Wise Use and
Abatement.`

The picture is bleak, according to the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), which organises the conference each year.

"Water pollution is on the rise globally," the institute said, pointing out that each and every day, approximately two million tonnes of human waste is poured into rivers, lakes and the sea.

And in developing countries, a full 70 percent of industrial waste is dumped straight into waters without being treated, severely polluting the usable water supply.

Global warming is exacerbating the problem, according to World Water Week director Jens Bergren.

"Climate change is really mainly about water and it has huge implications for water pollution," he said, pointing out that global warming is changing weather patterns and essentially causing massive flooding in some areas and severe droughts in others.

This is a big problem due to the way water interacts with pollutants.

"If there is too much water, it flushes out much more in the way of pollutants, spreading them around... but if there is a drought, there is less water in rivers and lakes to dilute the pollutants there and they do more harm," Berggren said.

"In both cases there is more pollution," he lamented. The growing pollution in turn leads to a number of very serious challenges and contributes to declining access to clean water around the world, affecting human health and ecosystems both on land and at sea.

PTI