Water: Scarcity, Excess, and the Geopolitics of Allocation
The Globalization TrendLab at the Lauder Institute and The Wharton School annually generates new knowledge and analysis on the problems and opportunities inherent to a global economy through annual academic conferences linking highly respected global scholars and practitioners. The sixth conference took place during March 2016 and focused on the theme of water.
The Lauder Institute invited thought leaders from diverse disciplinary and professional backgrounds to analyze specific challenges faced in finding, producing, and preserving water for a growing population, and to propose innovative solutions through focused panels.
These panels fostered discussion around a select number of areas including: (1) the development of reliable water infrastructure; (2) balancing the needs of cities and agriculture; (3) coordinating responses to problems of water access and allocation from government and NGOs; and (4) managing the cross-border challenges of water access.
Topic titles included:
- Peak Water? Price, Allocation, and Scarcity
- Feeding People, Feeding Livestock: Allocating Water for Agriculture
- Climate Change, Oceans, and Water Security
- Mobilizing Transnational Actors
The conference was successful in synthesizing collective learning on the topic of water and offered guidance on new thinking and potential strategies to business leaders, policymakers and academics.
Water Issues in Today’s World
According to the Millennium Development Goals Report 2012, more than ten percent of the global population remains without access to reliably improved sources of drinking water. Even with measurable progress over the ensuing years, that number remains too high, and is even higher in specific regions—such as Africa, where more than 350 million people live without access to safe water.
Even in the developed world, a combination of climate change, population growth, and political disputes between urban and agricultural consumers has led to increasing concern about future access to adequate water supplies. Furthermore, competition for scarce water resources is likely to become a growing factor in regional and international crises in the decades to come. Water is essential for both continued development and for the maintenance of developed societies, and poses technological and social as well as a political challenges for policymakers.
New technologies for water extraction and distribution offer promise, but run up against the fiscal and managerial restraints on governments in developed and developing economies. NGOs have been active in encouraging access to water, but the question remains whether short-term success can translate into longterm water security. Finally, global climate change creates an increasingly challenging environment in which both changing patterns of precipitation and rising sea levels threaten to unleash demographic dislocations that will challenge weak states and threaten their relations with regional neighbors. Successful management of water will require both national and transnational mobilization, and increased partnerships between the public and private sectors. The magnitude of the threat requires an equally massive mobilization of intellectual and material resources in the service of humanity’s future.
The conference audience consisted of academics, practitioners and policymakers who shared their perspectives on the best path forward for addressing the challenges posed by the water crisis. The ultimate objective for the conference is to have a broad impact on the intellectual community and public discourse through sharing of diverse perspectives and a wide circulation of a professionally written discussion paper that summarizes and highlights the ideas emerging from the presentations and conversations at the conference. Look out for this year’s report, published at lauder.wharton.upenn.edu/globalization-trendlab.
Sponsor and Organizers
The Globalization TrendLab 2016 is funded through a generous gift from Santander Universities.
- Mauro Guillén, The Wharton School and the Lauder Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ronald Granieri, The Lauder Institute, email@example.com