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World Water Day: expert calls for end to 'water inequality'


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By: University of Leicester

March 22, 2013 - The world faces "a global crisis in the management of water resources", a marketing expert has warned on World Water Day - the annual United Nations event designed to focus attention on the importance of fresh water.

"Water will in the coming century become like petrol", says Dr Georgios Patsiaouras, Lecturer in Marketing and Consumption at the University of Leicester School of Management - "a scarce commodity of huge demand and limited supply". He added: "We have to rethink sustainable water supply networks in order to prevent unequal access to water between rich and poor. We must fight water inequality."

Dr Patsiaouras' comments follow research conducted with two colleagues at the School, Professor Michael Saren and Professor James Fitchett, on the management of water. Some preliminary research findings from their study were presented last year at a leading conference.

The academics argue that managing markets for goods and commodities once considered abundant is becoming a major marketing challenge.

Focusing on water, they suggest that the commercialization of public water in a variety of countries, the growth of water banks, and the international exchange of water resources will grow. This will create competitive tension between firms and nations. As the global population continues to rise - and becomes more affluent - water demand will increase. As a result, the old perception among economists that water resources are unlimited is sadly out of date.

The researchers conclude that with almost 40 developing and developed countries having already declared that they are suffering from water shortages, efficient water supply is more than likely to emerge as the most urgent resource problem for the 21st century.

However, Patsiaouras, Saren and Fitchett argue that several important issues have been only superficially examined so far. These include the balance between water demand and supply, sustainable market development and the ecologically responsible exchange of water resources.

Governments face a dilemma, they say. They can let the right to fresh water become increasingly unequal -- with greater numbers of the world's poor having limited or no access to this vital commodity -- or they can develop public policies fostering a sustainable consumption culture. To do that, they need to revise free-market transactions so that they integrate ecological and social considerations in the economic management of water.

Patsiaouras, Saren and Fitchett conclude that in a world where millions of people lack access to safe water supplies, the challenges of sustainable water use and distributive justice systems of water resources will become increasingly important. However, marketing practices have the potential to cultivate a responsible consumption ethos towards planet's most vital component for survival.

 

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