Director of United Nations'
Global Water Program Meets With UNH Scientists
Contact: David Sims
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
February 25, 2004
DURHAM, N.H.— Next year will mark the beginning of the United
Nations' “International Decade for Action - Water for Life,”
and scientists from the University of New Hampshire's Institute
for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS) already are laying
the groundwork with the program's director in an effort to play
an active role in solving problems related to Earth's most precious
Spearheaded by the UN and its 24-agency World Water Assessment
Programme (WWAP), the project will focus on monitoring and assessing
human stewardship of global water resources. On a recent visit to
EOS, Gordon Young, the coordinator of WWAP, gave a seminar on the
program's work and met with EOS researchers. "I'm here to discuss
what sort of contributions the institute and particularly the Water
Systems Analysis Group (WSAG) can make to our overall UN effort.
The group provides extremely powerful tools for answering critical
questions that many governments have about their own water resources
and how they can be used," Young said.
Gordon Young, coordinator of the UN's
World Water Assessment Programme
According to Charles Vörösmarty, director of the water
analysis group at EOS, the specific tools Young referred to are
the global hydrological archive and analysis system, and geospacial
data and analysis tools developed by WSAG. “In particular,”
Vörösmarty said, “the UN program is interested in
our capabilities to map indicators of water scarcity and stress.”
While the United States does not, in general, suffer from water
scarcity and stress issues compared to many parts of the world,
Young asserted that the UN's decade-long effort to focus attention
on global freshwater issues should concern Americans very much.
“A large portion of the world's people are really suffering
from lack of water, which influences the lack of food or poor health
conditions,” Young said. He pointed to statistics from WWAP's
publication on global water resource issues, “World Water
Development Report,” which states that 6,000 children die
per day from diarrhea-related illnesses, and more than 2.2 million
people die each year from diseases related to contaminated drinking
water and poor sanitation. “We should all be concerned in
two senses: from the humanitarian point of view, and also for our
own self-interest,” Young said.
On the humanitarian side of things, Young said it's simply the
right thing to do for the haves to help the have-nots, particularly
with something as essential as freshwater. “If our brothers
and sisters in Africa are suffering, then we rich people should
be feeling a little bit guilty and be willing to do something about
it,” he said. Moreover, Young added, efforts to upgrade the
quality of life for people in an ever-shrinking world help to stem
social unrest, which in turn can make the world a safer place.
“Water flows through everything. The world is dependant on
freshwater for food, energy, health, environment, industry, etc.,”
Young said. This dependence is sure to become more critical as the
“triple whammy” of population growth, increasing standards
of living, and climate change further complicate the situation and
put further stress on the world's freshwater supply. “Global
warming is very much linked into water availability because it's
climate that drives water resources,” Young said.
For more information on the World Water Assessment Programme, visit
Visit the EOS Water Systems Analysis Group at http://www.watsys.unh.edu.