Water is our most vital resource and global water security is a really important agenda. Alongside food and energy security, water security is central to economic growth, health and social well-being in all countries.
On Monday a new report was published that looks at these issues. It’s very timely as the United Nations also published a report on the same day looking at the potential threats arising to food production from land degradation and water shortages.
In the UK, we take for granted that water supply meets demand, with households and businesses expecting access to this precious commodity at all times. In other parts of the world, many poor people are less fortunate, without such easy access to water and services like sanitation.
This is a real priority issue. It is important to realise that in our interconnected world individual countries like the UK cannot think about water in isolation. Every country draws on the water resources of those countries they trade with, in the form of water contained in food and used to manufacture products. Each country has its water footprint that can extend well beyond its borders.
Collaboration within the UK and internationally is vital to safeguarding future global water security. The UK is a world leader in water research, particularly in the global water cycle and its interaction with climate change. Over the past year, my office, along with the Living With Environmental Change programme and the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences have been looking at how we can use and develop the UK’s skills and knowledge of water to help meet the ever increasing demands on the global water sector.
This work has been steered by the UK Water Research and Innovation Partnership (UKWRIP) established earlier this year, and which I chair. Membership is composed of private, public and third sector organisations. The Partnership has been working with many representatives from government, academia, business, and charities engaged in the water sector to develop the UK Water Research and Innovation Framework (UKWRIF). It has been a truly collaborative effort to set out a strategic approach to the highly diverse and interrelated challenges, by highlighting key priorities, and mechanisms to ensure better coherence and co-ordination of different public funding schemes for water research and innovation.
The Framework was launched on Monday at a very timely and relevant Parliamentary Reception and Exhibition event, highlighting the work of UK companies in developing new technologies for the water sector both domestically and internationally. It was being hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Water Group, a cross-party group of MPs and peers. It was with real regret that I wasn’t able to be there, as I was chairing a meeting of the UK-Japan Joint Commission on Co-operation in Science and Technology. This will explore areas for potential collaboration, including environmental issues.
I am really pleased that we have been able to develop this Framework and hope that the collaboration across the many organisations established through the Partnership will continue to ensure that it is taken into action. This will contribute to the vision that by 2030 the UK will be a key contributor in providing integrated solutions in water security and sustainability.
This will allow individuals, communities and businesses to benefit from productive, equitable water systems and ecosystem services. As a result, health improves, communities develop, the green economy grows, and the environment is protected and enhanced.