UNESCO Water e-Newsletter: Water Cooperation

Special Edition on the occasion of the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013
22 March 2013

In Focus

World Water Day

On 22 March, in celebration of the International Year of Water Cooperation, World Water Day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water.

Cooperation is essential to strike a balance between the different needs and priorities and share this precious resource equitably. Since water cuts across all sectors, stakeholders that are not traditionally considered to be water managers must participate.

Water cooperation between different social groups, economic sectors, regional governments, countries, and present and future generations, is crucial not only to ensure the sustainable and equitable use of water but also to create and maintain peaceful relations between people.


© Cajetan Barretto

  • The Year of Water Politics
    This 5-part series is taken from A World of Science. Each of these articles examines a different aspect of conflict and cooperation over water, using examples from history – and more recent case studies – to show the human face of water politics.
  • Kick off of the International Year of Water Cooperation in Paris
    The International Year of Water Cooperation 2013 was launched at UNESCO Headquarters, in Paris, on 11 February.
  • Water cooperation: more urgent than ever
    A hush fell over the room when 23 year old Megha Kumar took to the stage in front of hundreds of international delegates. Megha's message was simple, “Water, water everywhere, only if we share”.
  • Working together to provide water for all
    How can the world work more closely together to overcome these present challenges, and ensure that access to freshwater, a human right, is available to all?

World Water Day Events




Did you know? Facts & figures on water cooperation

An increasing demand

  • Global population growth projections of 2–3 billion people over the next 40 years, combined with changing diets, result in a predicted increase in food demand of 70% by 2050.
  • With expected increases in population, by 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50% (70% by 2050) (Bruinsma, 2009), while energy demand from hydropower and other renewable energy resources will rise by 60% (WWAP, 2009). These issues are interconnected – increasing agricultural output, for example, will substantially increase both water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water between water-using sectors.
  • Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention.
  • Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies).
  • Shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy require more water. Producing 1 kg of rice, for example, requires ~3,500 L of water, 1 kg of beef ~15,000 L, (Hoekstra and Chapagain, 2008). This dietary shift is the greatest to impact on water consumption over the past 30 years, and is likely to continue well into the middle of the twenty-first century (FAO, 2006).

A resource without borders

  • Water is not confined to political borders. An estimated 148 states have international basins within their territory, and there are 276 transboundary river basins in the world.
  • There are numerous examples where transboundary waters have proved to be a source of cooperation. Nearly 450 agreements on international waters were signed between 1820 and 2007 (OSU, 2007).
  • Yet 60% of the world’s 276 international river basins lack any type of cooperative management framework (De Stefano et al., 2010).
  • Most rich nations are maintaining or increasing their consumption of natural resources (WWF, 2010), but are exporting their footprints to producer, and typically, poorer, nations. European and North American populations consume a considerable amount of virtual water embedded in imported food and products.
  • The Russian Federation shares 30 transboundary river basins with riparian countries, Chile and United States 19, Argentina and China 18, Canada 15, Guinea 14, Guatemala 13, and France ten.
  • The Danube River Basin is the "most shared", with 18 countries sharing this transboundary river basin.
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