William J. Cosgrove

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Montréal, QC, Canada


William J. Cosgrove holds an Honorary Doctorate of Science from McGill University. He is a Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Project Director of the Global Water Scenarios Project which is carried out by IIASA in collaboration with the UN World WaterAssessment Program, and a member of the Gulbenkian Foundation Think Tank on Water and Humanity. He is Chair of the Board of the Water Economics, Policy and Governance Research Network (Canada). Mr. Cosgrove is a former Vice President of the World Bank, Past-President of the World Water Council and served as Chairman of the International Steering Committee of the Dialogue on Water and Climate. His recent publications include The Dynamics of Global Water Futures: Driving Forces 2011-2050; World Water Vision: Making Water Everybody’s Business; and Water Security and Peace: A Synthesis of Studies prepared for UNESCO under the PCCP- Water for Peace Process.


An Equitable and Sustainable Water Future

Humans evolved by developing increasingly sophisticated analyses, tools, technology and institutions to manage the resources of the planet. But they made it increasingly possible to support human life, and the human species multiplied. In the last 100 years the world human population more than tripled while the economy grew more than 6 times faster. 

Water managers have made it possible to meet the needs of most of the 7 billion people living today. Still, about 2.5 million people lack adequate sanitation; 35 million people die each year from water-related diseases; three-quarters of the world’s wastewater flows to the environment without treatment; a billion people have no electricity in their homes and a similar number lack clean fuel for heating and cooking. Global crises in climate change, energy and food supplies and prices, and troubled financial markets are linked to each other and to water resources management. We humans are not just spreading over the planet, but are changing the way fundamental geo- and biophysical systems work. 

In a desirable future for humanity on the planet, all people would at all times have secure access at all times, and at a price they can afford to and adequate quantity of:

      • safe nutritious food at a price they can afford for a healthy and active life
      • safe water to meet their household needs
      • clean energy for their heating, cooling and transportation needs/clean air
      • healthy housing and surrounding environment

Scientific knowledge and technological development are expanding exponentially and are limited only by our imagination. Women and young people are making their voices heard and participating in decision-making processes. We can work together to build the sustainable world we agree to seek.

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