Lake Geneva from Lausanne (Waterstink.com)

This week I was fortunate enough to be in Switzerland with my work. I had a very pleasant research team meeting in Lausanne and found a bit of time to walk back to my hotel along the shore of Lake Geneva. The air around the lake was truly invigorating and the scene beautiful so I took the above photo to capture the moment.

Had I been walking the same route a few decades back, my experience may not have been at all as pleasant.

Roger and I have already highlighted in our Crisis of Innovation book the global issue of how most watercourses worldwide are transboundary in nature. This raises serious issues for international cooperation in tackling environmental challenges. Lake Geneva, of course, is transboundary par excellence, bordering Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Liechtenstein. Until the 1990s Lake Geneva, along with other Swiss lakes, was in a dire state for wildlife with large amounts of phosporous nutients leeching into the lakes from over-fertilization and pig farming in and around its various bordering nations.

Transboundary cooperation has been in place, in particular between France and Switzerland, for some time, such as this Treaty from the 1960s which included joint investigations of the sources of phosphorus into Lake Geneva. Through such cooperative measures and the allocation of joint resources from Switzerland and France the eutrophication of the Swiss lakes has been effectively halted. Pollution from households and industry has since been tackled intensively and wastewater treatment improved, as outlined in a seminar report a few years back by the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape.

Tackling the world’s water challenges in coming decades will require similar efforts right across the world. From time to time it’s heartening therefore to be at the site of past successes to derive a sense of hope and possibility about our shared water future.

Update (16/11/2016): Featured image, not taken by Waterstink, added from this source.

Duncan Thomas

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