The text is drawn from an address by Ismail Serageldin to the
VIII World Congress 021 Water Resources of the International Water Resources
Association in Cairo, Egypt, on November 22, 1994.
The author is grateful to Guy Et Moigne John Briscoe, Gershon
Feder, and Randall Purcell for their help in preparing, this publication Cecilia
Goriz contributid to the research. Editorial and production assistance was
provided by Virginia delaven Hitchcock and Lisa Barczak
Few issues have a greater impact on our lives and on the life of
the planet shall the management of our most important natural resource: water.
Today we have a new appreciation for the role of water in our lives, our
economies, and our ecosystem. Water is our lifeblood. Human beings, like other
animals and plants, are made mostly of water. We need water to maintain basic
health and sanitation. Some 8 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are
used for this purpose. We need adequate supplies of water to feed ourselves.
Agriculture accounts for some 63 percent of the world's use of freshwater (about
70 percent in the developing countries), and a third of the world's food crops
are produced by irrigated agriculture. We also need water to develop and
maintain vibrant economies. Industries use about a fifth of the world's
freshwater supplies, often as a vital part of the production process. Factories
use water for cooling, processing, and generating steam to run equipment and as
a transporting agent. Finally, most animal and plant species depend on
freshwater ecosystems, which are also important for maintaining regional weather
patterns and even global