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Posted at 9:27 AM ET, 01/29/2011

Water Security

By Andy Wales

As food prices continue to rocket and energy security again becomes a key theme in the context of rising oil prices, another resource came to the fore this week in discussions at Davos: water. The launch of a new book "Water Security" led by a group of CEOs from Nestle, Coca Cola, SABMiller and others, sought to highlight how resolving water scarcity underpins our ability to secure food and energy stability.

The book outlines the fault lines and opportunities of the "water-food-energy nexus," which was also the subject of an excellent MIT-led IdeasLab at Davos. By 2030, the world will be 40 percent short of water, impacting not just human health and ecology but also growth: Over the same time frame we will need a dramatic increase in food production, requiring higher irrigation. Consumers will also demand more energy, which is water intensive; some figures I saw this week argued that coal-fired power generation uses up to 50 percent of freshwater in the United States.

At a private session Thursday at Davos, a group of more than 100 public figures, major CEOs and NGO leaders all discussed how they can work together to tackle this challenge. Interestingly, these Davos conversations are resulting in concrete actions. Ministers from India and Jordan talked about how the WEF Water Initiative is leading to better water management on the ground.

The message also needs to reach consumers. Few people are aware that it can take 6,000 liters of water to grow the cotton to make their pair of jeans. On that theme, this week also saw the launch of a new campaign, which in 2012 aims to get 12 million people around the world to reduce their direct or indirect water footprint. Sign up to take part at

Andy Wales is group head of sustainable development for brewer SABMiller and author of "Big Business, Big Responsibilities."

By Andy Wales  | January 29, 2011; 9:27 AM ET
Categories:  Andy Wales  
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