Last 15 July 2014 I posted on the "Santa Cruz Declaration on the Global Water Crisis", and took exception to its claim that 'the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality’. The Santa Cruz Declaration (SCD) was published in a special issue of Water International, Towards Equitable Water Governance.
The paper includedcomments on the SCD. My friend and colleague, hydrogeologist Yoram Eckstein, was one of the commentators. He pulled no punches, as he is wont to do:
I read this ‘declaration’ in the morning, and since I got hot under my collar I decided to put it aside. Then I read it again in the evening, and got ‘dismayed’ again. So, here is the ‘beef’. The ‘declaration’ opens with the following stunning statement summarizing the authors’ “understanding of water injustice and how it can be addressed”:
The global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity. Although limited water supply and inadequate institutions are indeed part of the problem, we assert that the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality. We, the undersigned scholars, community members, activists, officials and citizens, declare that the principal form of the water crisis is not a shortage of water, nor failures of government, but the many injustices in access to, the allocation of, and the quality of water. The global water crisis is not likely to be resolved by the provision of more water.
You can read his complete statement here.
Well, the editors of Water International promised more - a debate between Yoram and Ben Crow, one of the guest editors of the issue in which the SCD paper appeared. It was just published. Here it is, with the Editors' Note reproduced below it.
The March 2014 (39/2) special issue of Water International, ‘Towards Equitable Water Governance’, included the Santa Cruz Declaration on the Global Water Crisis and a set of diverse comments on the declaration. One of the commentators was Water International Associate Editor Yoram Eckstein, Fulbright Professor of Hydrogeology at Tomsk Polytechnic University, Russian Federation, who objected to the central assertion that ‘the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality’, arguing that physical scarcity still rules. This sparked a lively exchange between Eckstein and Ben Crow, one of the Guest Editors of the special issue, and Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. We reproduce the exchange in full here, with minor editing, as in our view it is an excellent example of what we aspire to in making Water International a forum for dialogue between physical and social sciences, in keeping with one of the key objectives of the International Water Resources Association. Despite our efforts, all too often this kind of honest exchange is rare across the two cultures. In the end, neither side was convinced by the other, but dialogue is to promote mutual understanding, not homogenization of views.
James E. Nickum and Philippus Wester
Thanks to Editors Nickum and Wester for presenting this.
I found the debate enlightening. I still support Yoram's viewpoint, although Ben makes a good case. If I keep doing work in developing countries, who knows where I will be in a few years?
"Do you believe that if you solve all the societal ills on the globe it will suddenly be awash with plenty of water for all?" - Yoram Eckstein, p. 779