Disconnected approaches to water security are hindering efforts to launch more effective talks on providing universal access to fresh water and sanitation, an expert said at an international conference this week.

The division between discussions on boosting access to water for the poor and those on the challenges of managing water as a resource was plain to see at the water security conference at Oxford University, according to Tom Slaymaker, a senior policy analyst at WaterAid.

“The dominant narrative on water security reflects rich-country concerns and we mustn’t forget that in developing countries huge amounts of people still lack basic facilities,” Slaymaker said.

Unless the two camps link up, solutions to complex challenges across the water sector are unlikely to be found soon, he said.

“On the one hand, we have climate scientists and water-resource modellers debating the risks attached to periodic extreme events such as floods and droughts,” Slaymaker told AlertNet. “On the other, we have development agencies concerned that over 2 million people continue to die every year due to a lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities.”