New Year’s Message from Mark Smith, Head IUCN Water Programme

03 January 2011 | News story

Every species -whether animal or plant- uses water every day. This includes each and every one of us. Water connects all people and all life.

Most of the water we use, some 70 % globally, we use to grow food. More is used to keep business and industry productive and profitable. The idea that we need water to keep us healthy and clean is familiar. However we easily forget that it is also fundamental to keeping us nourished, to the economy, to jobs, to wealth and security. We need water flowing in rivers for energy, for trade and for enjoyment. Yet, of all the water on Earth, only 1% is liquid freshwater that we can use. Without doubt, water is precious

With water’s gifts comes responsibility. It must be shared - among ourselves and with the rest of the web of life. Meeting our responsibilities is economically, socially and politically demanding. Water is at once both chemically simple, and vastly complex.

For close to 1 billion people, basic needs for clean, safe water go unmet every day. Increasing populations, expanding economies, and growing pollution, mean there is less water to share among more people and more needs. Climate change is intensifying these challenges, especially in parts of the world where the challenges are already acute. A water crisis is looming. Everyone stands to lose. And so too does nature – including its benefits for people and its beauty.

We should ask ourselves what it will take, locally or globally, to find solutions to the water crisis. How can we lower water risks for people and business, for nations and nature, to build a resilient water future? We all depend on getting these answers right.

For the past 10 years, IUCN has worked in more than 30 countries worldwide to find practical solutions for water. Looking towards 2011, the IUCN Water Programme will continue working through the Water and Nature Initiative with IUCN Members, partners, communities, governments and business to drive innovation in water management and build consensus on coordinated action to meet the needs both of people and nature.


Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year from the IUCN Water Programme,


Dr. Mark Smith