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Archive for the ‘water’ Category

VIEWS: SSC at the World Water Forum (Part III)

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on March 24, 2009

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

I’m on the flight back home after my trip to Istanbul and the World Water Forum. I’m sure that in the coming week we will hear all about the sessions, working groups, panels, and “key messages” through such excellent sites as Grist and Worldchanging (two of my favorite sustainability news outlets). I’m also sure that others’ analysis will be more insightful and pithy than mine.

But as I Istanbul, what is sticking with me is the disconnect between what *I* know about water and it’s connection with sustainability (even basic societal survival!) and how everyday people think about water. I was asked more than a dozen times by the “average” Istanbul citizen what I was doing in the city, and it often led to a discussion of water. Here’s what I heard:

Taxi Driver – don’t you think this is something that politicians are using to get people riled up? Water is not a problem. Well, maybe in 100 years. But this is not something we should be concerned with today.

Carpet Shop Employee – it’s true that clean water is difficult, but bottled water is so cheap it is not really a problem for me. Maybe it’s more of a problem in the country.

Hotel Employee – this is a problem in Africa, right? Where there is no rain? Here we get lots of rain, so drought is not something we worry about.

I think if you asked people in any major city you would probably hear the same thing: it’s a political “much ado about nothing”, it’s about my own personal access to clean drinking water, or it’s a problem in areas with drought. Very few people seemed to see the larger picture – for instance about water privatization issues, or climate change implications, or even how the price of goods and services will rise as access to clean water becomes more expensive – or impossible to obtain.

As a sustainability consultant, it’s my job to help people understand how a simple-yet-complex issue like water can have real meaning to their lives and their livelihoods. I have to wear many hats – scientist, communicator, accountant, fortuneteller… I have to balance the realities of today with the uncertainties of tomorrow. I have to find the link between the “right thing to do” (e.g. access to clean drinking water for all) and what makes “good business sense” (e.g. let’s make sure our company’s supply chain is water-efficient). It’s complicated and fascinating work – and as I leave Istanbul I’m excited to get back to the SSC office and spend some time reviewing our consulting services to ensure that water concerns are integrated into every part of our analysis and planning engagements.


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VIEWS: SSC at the World Water Forum

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on March 17, 2009

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

I arrived in Istanbul yesterday afternoon for the 5th World Water Forum (and what I also hope will be a little vacation). Grabbing a taxi from the airport to the hotel where I’m staying, the evidence of the conference is everywhere – from the oh-so-very-efficient customs and passport control to the conference signs and banners attached to virtually every streetlight and traffic light in the city. (There are also millions of flags, posters, and banners concerning the upcoming March 29 local elections – but that’s another story altogether).

The conference attendees are everywhere you turn, speaking in a dozen languages and all gesturing emphatically. Water, it seems, is an issue that everyone from GIS Analysts to the Crown Prince of Japan (who gave this morning’s keynote) can get excited about. The city is literally buzzing with enthusiasm, and the rest of the week looks to be more of the same.

Ironically, even as I type this brief update from my hotel room, I’m sipping on bottled water. It’s unfortunate that the city’s municipal water is questionable (either overly chlorinated, or not chlorinated enough, and while probably fine no one wants to take that chance), and so everyone chugs down artificially cheap and yet oh-so-environmentally-toxic bottled water. Providing safe and clean drinking water to Istanbul’s 12.6 million residents is going to continue to be a challenge, especially considering the city’s aging infrastructure and rapid growth. It will be interesting to see how the conference addresses the realities of its host city’s situation.

If you are in Istanbul for the conference, send me an email ( We’ll grab a coffee and share notes!

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