Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. This classic poem is slowly turning into a dark reality. And we are heading towards a future where even the abundance of water is not guaranteed anymore.
Every year, since 1993 on March 22, we have been observing ‘World Water Day’ to highlight the depleting sources of water from our planet. Over these years earth’s population has been increasing at an alarming rate and the demand for water is exceeding the supply.
And climate change is only adding to the current precarious situation the world is facing.
It was in 1977, in Argentina, when the first UN Water Conference was held. Currently underway in New York, this edition of the Water Conference will allow nations to ensure the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, the sustainable management of water and sanitation is met for all. The Conference aims to raise awareness of the global water crisis and decide on action to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals. Five themes have been identified to support this– Water for Health,Water for Sustainable Development,Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment,Water for Cooperation and Water Action Decade.
According to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres “The 2023 Water Conference must result in a bold Water Action Agenda that gives our world’s lifeblood the commitment it deserves.” One of the main outcomes from the conference will be a Water Action Agenda. This will require game-changing commitments from governments, civil society and the private sector that will truly accelerate our progress towards water-related goals and targets. The conference will also provide fresh ideas and perspectives about how to achieve better water governance. It will also help us to understand how we can invest in better data to improve our responses to water-related disasters.
Since the last water conference, the geographical, social, economical and environmental factors determining the availability of this precious life resource have changed drastically. According to the UN prediction, the world population which now stands at 8 billion, is expected to add another 500 million to the existing population by 2030. While the supply is becoming more scarce and unpredictable, the demand on the other hand is growing every single second. As per the World Economic Forum report, natural resources crises, including water and food, come within the top 10 biggest risks facing humanity.
The major reasons for shortage of water is mainly due to contamination, poor management, inadequate rainfall, lack of water storage, depletion of groundwater and climate change.The impacts of a changing climate are making water more unpredictable. Slowly water scarcity from being a problem has now become a cause for various other issues, like the unequal distribution of water amongst the rich and poor countries. According to the UN data, gap between water demand and supply at 40% by 2030, with a “dramatic and unequal increase in demand between countries”.
This is also taking a toll on women and children because they are often the ones responsible for collecting it. When the source of water is further away, it requires more time to collect, which often means less time at school. Particularly for girls, a shortage of water in schools impacts student enrolment, attendance and performance. Apart from socio-economic effects it also has health implications, carrying water long distances is also an enormous physical burden and can expose children to safety risks and exploitation.
According to UN data four billion people, that is almost two thirds of the world’s population, experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year. Over two billion people live in countries where water supply is inadequate and half of the world’s population could be living in areas facing water scarcity by as early as 2025. It is also estimated that roughly around 700 million people could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030. And by 2040, roughly 1 in 4 children worldwide will be living in areas of extremely high water stress, says the report.
The World Meteorological Organization estimates that 3.6 billion people struggle to get enough water to meet their needs for at least one month every year, and it forecasts that 5 billion people, which is more than half of humanity, will be facing the same plight by 2050. It’s time that we look at the ways in which we can increase access to water and sanitation, and provide solutions to tackle climate change, hunger and biodiversity loss.