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Collaborative approach needed to overcome Middle East water resource.

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5 Oct 2011

The Middle East must adopt a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach in overcoming pressing challenges for the region’s water issues due to the overuse of surface and underground water resources, according to an industry expert.

Adrian Sym, Executive Director of Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), says that due to the complexity of the challenges that the Middle East faces with its water resources, finding long-term solutions need to involve the public and private sectors, as well as civil society.

“The Middle East is one of the most water scarce regions in the world,” said Sym. “Surface and underground water resources are being over-exploited, with several countries withdrawing more than 75 per cent of their total actual renewable water resources – among the highest in the world. This has a detrimental impact on people, the economy and, above all, the environment.”

Discussing the multiple challenges the Middle East region faces regarding its water issues, Sym added: “Water scarcity attracts the most attention, but other water related problems are very pressing, not least of which is pollution. Other factors, such as population growth, urbanisation, and demographic change with a relatively young population are all relevant, and impact water management. The challenge is to ensure that they impact it in a positive way.”

Sym will be among an expert line-up of speakers at the Power + Water Middle East Leaders’ Forum next month on 16 October at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), where he will present the AWS global voluntary certification programme to the region’s leaders and decision makers.

Other speakers include Mohamed Bin Jarsh, Deputy Managing Director for the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC), who will deliver the keynote address of the forum and Michael Flynn, Principle Investigator at the NASA Ames Research Centre who will discuss the process used by NASA to maximise the impact of education programmes on advanced technology development for power and water projects.

The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) is a group of leading businesses, social development and conservation organisations working to advance the water management certification programme that recognises and rewards responsible corporations, farming operations, cities, and other water users for their sustainable use of water resources.

By developing best practice standards for managing water in a way that enables economic development in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner, the Alliance aims to certify ‘water users’ who are taking major steps to minimise their water footprint and protect healthy watersheds.

“Sustainable water management is an evolutionary process that involves people taking responsibility and ownership of both problem and solution, and doing this at all levels, from individual to ministerial,” continued Sym. “In other words, a ‘bottom up’ approach through which responsibility is shared rather than placed entirely on one party, for example the government.”

Despite the sustainable water management challenges facing the Middle East, Sym says that countries are moving in the right direction, albeit with plenty of work still to be accomplished.

“There have been many positive developments, for example with policy and institutional reforms underway in some countries, progress in waste water management, establishment of water users’ associations, as well as some progressive action through the private sector,” continued Sym.

“I hope that the Power + Water Middle East Leaders’ Forum will be a significant step for us to establish the regional stakeholder engagement process around the AWS global certification standard, and get commitments to test the draft Standard in 2012.”

Focusing on ‘Developing Sustainable Business Practices’, the Power + Water Middle East Leaders’ Forum is presented in partnership with Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) and runs alongside the three-day Power + Water Middle East exhibition, which takes place from 16 to 18 October at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Collaborative approach needed to overcome Middle East water resource.

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