UN-Water on Friday (March 20) released its annual World Water Development Report this year focusing on “Water for a Sustainable World”. The key message of the study is that the planet is facing a significant shortfall (40 percent) in water supply by 2030 , unless we dramatically improve the management of this precious resource.
In a critical year for international action on sustainable development (in September the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals are due to be adopted by UN General Assembly) and climate change (in December a new global climate agreement is expected at COP21 in Paris), the report demonstrates how water is critical to nearly every aspect of sustainable development, and how a dedicated SDG for water would create social, economic, financial and other benefits that would extend to poverty alleviation, health, education, food and energy production, and the environment.
“There is already international consensus that water and sanitation are essential to the achievement of many sustainable development goals”, says Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization. “They are inextricably linked to climate change, agriculture, food security, health, energy, equality, gender and education. Now, we must look forward to measurability, monitoring and implementation”.
The report’s release came right ahead of the World Water Day on March 22, the annual initiative by UN-Water “to celebrate water”, “to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues”, “to prepare for how we manage water in the future”, this year addressing links bewteen water and sustainable development.
The WWDR 2015 provides a comprehensive overview of major and emerging trends from around the world regarding water and sanitation, urbanization challenges, food and agriculture, energy, industry and climate adaptation.
As for agriculture and food production, the study highlighted that “current growth rates of agricultural demands on the world’s freshwater resources are unsustainable” and that “inefficient use of water for crop production […] has caused salinization of 20% of the global irrigated land area”.
Several options are presented to address the water/food critical connections: improving efficency in water uses; increasing agricultural productivity (producing more crop or value per volume of water applied); preserving natural ecosystems like wetlands, forests, rivers and lakes that provide important ecosystem services with regard to the quality and quantity of water; limiting agricultural water pollution; increasing access to resources and assets for rural communities, and especially female farmers (who account for the majority of all subsistence farmers); improving the resilience of water users to shocks and extreme events; enhancing effective governance that involves national decision-makers, water authorities, local and international stakeholders, and that ensures accountability, equity, transparency and appropriate legislation.
Read and/or download the WWDR 2015 here.
(Image: One of the World Water Day 2015 posters. Credit: UN-Water)