The What, Why and How of the World Water Crisis: Global Commission on the Economics of Water Phase 1 Review and Findings

Quentin Grafton, Joyeeta Gupta, Aromar Revi, Mariana Mazzucato, Ngozi Okonjo-Iewala, Johan Rockström, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, LaToya Cantrell, María Fernanda Espinosa, Arunabha Ghosh, Naoko Ishii, Juan Carlos Jintiach, Qiu Baoxing, Mamphela Ramphele, Martha Rojas Urrego, Ismail Serageldin, Richard Damania, Kathleen Dominique, Daniel Esty, Henk WJ Ovink, Usha Rao-Monari, Abebe Selassie, Lauren Seaby Andersen, Yuvan Aunuth Beejadhur, Hilmer Bosh, Luca Kühn von Burgsdorff, Safa Fanaian, Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Julius Lim,  Mariana Portal, Neha Sami, Julia Schaef, Amir Bazaz, Prajna Beleyur, Simon Fahrländer, Ketaki Ghoge, Santhosh Ragavan K V, Mahima Vijendra, Kavita Wankhade, Mariam Zaqout, Anna Dupont, Xavier Leflaive, Inés Reale    | 2023


Many approaches, reports and commissions have attempted to address the challenges of water at multiple levels. What is the unique proposition that the Global Commission on the Economics of Water (GCEW) provides? First, it identifies the systemic crisis of the global water cycle, based on new evidence and science. Second, it uses a “systems lens” to view water not as a sector, an input, or an adverse outcome, but as an organising principle to connect across the SDGs, climate action and biodiversity conservation. Third, it establishes a transformational goal for the global economy and all human societies: to treat water as a global common good — to respond to a crisis of the global water cycle and to resolve the multiple local and regional crises of too little, too much, or too dirty water. Fourth, it presents a set of transition goals across economic and social systems and natural systems as a collective response to the multidimensional, multi-level global water crisis. Fifth, it shows how these system transitions need collective action built around a new social contract between citizens, governments, businesses, communities and civil society, which functions effectively from the local to the global. Sixth, it highlights the opportunities for adopting a transformational goal of treating water as a global common good, noting that the full realisation of these benefits requires effective multilateral actions and diversified partnerships. We contend that treating water as an organising principle and water as a global common good will revitalise multilateral actions and, in a fragmented and contested world, promote prosperity, human well-being and ecosystem health for all by 2050.