Publication: Sink or Swim—Toward Water Security for All

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World Bank
Harnessing the productive potential of water and limiting its destructive impacts have challenged the human species since its origins. Many of the earliest civilizations, particularly those on the floodplains of the world's major rivers, succeeded by harnessing water, often in nation-building efforts that spawned great civilizations. But water is also a force for destruction, catastrophically through drought, flood, landslides, and epidemic, and progressively through erosion, inundation, desertification, contamination, and disease. Water also has been a source of dispute, particularly where it crosses jurisdictional boundaries. Today, where water supplies are adequate and reliable, societies are relatively rich. Water security was easily achieved in temperate climates where rainfall is not extremely variable. By contrast, where water is scarce, variable, and uncontrolled, most societies have remained poor, and basic water security has not been achieved. There are other reasons why societies are poor or rich, but the significance of water security is considerable, and little recognized. Over time, human beings have developed reservoirs of knowledge and experience about how to control and manage water, but, with economic development and population growth, the demands on water have grown apace. This is true in all industrial countries, which invested early and heavily in water infrastructure, institutions, and management capacity. It is equally true in developing countries, where investments in water development and management remain an urgent priority. In some developing countries, often the poorest, the severity of the challenge of managing water is almost without precedent.
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World Bank. 2008. Sink or Swim—Toward Water Security for All. Water P-Notes; No. 7. © Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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