The current global water crises includes water scarcity, water insecurity, accessibility to clean water, and water pollution whereas future crises may be attributed to climate change. Sustainable development goals have been put in place to address these challenges.
OVERVIEW OF GLOBAL WATER CRISIS
- Water is a basic commodity influencing each and every aspect of human life. However, in a population of about 844 million people in the entire world, 1 in 9 lack access to it.
- Access to safe water can turn problems and challenges that society faces into potential positive opportunities such as unlocking education, economic prosperity, and improved health.
- Successful water management will serve as a foundation for the achievement of many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially to ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’.
- Water has become a pressing societal and geopolitical issue in the world. In some regions water is a critical national concern, up to 40% of the world’s population will be living in seriously water-stressed areas by 2035 if sustainable water practices are not put in place.
- Poor management has resulted in unethical practices, poor accountability and corruption in the water sectors of many countries resulting in water crises.
KEY GLOBAL WATER CRISES
WATER STRESS AND SCARCITY
- Increase in water use has resulted in high environmental costs, including loss of biodiversity as well as affecting natural water systems such as rivers and aquifers. Half of the world ’s wetlands have disappeared over the last century with some rivers now no longer reach the sea. It has been proposed that when annual per capita renewable freshwater availability is less than 1,700 cubic meters, countries begin to experience periodic or regular water stress. When water levels are below 1,000 cubic meters, water scarcity begins to hamper economic development and human health and well-being.
- A fifth of the world’s people, more than 1.2 billion live in areas of physical water scarcity, where there is simply not enough water to meet all demands, including environmental flows. More than 1.2 billion people live in areas of economic water scarcity, where human capacity or financial resources are likely to be insufficient to provide adequate water resources.
- In 60% of European cities with more than 100,000 people, groundwater is being used at a faster rate than it can be replenished.
- Water resources development is approaching or has exceeded sustainable limits whereby more than 75% of river flows are withdrawn for agriculture, industry and domestic purposes. On the other hand, if more than 60% of river flows are withdrawn, these basins will experience, physical water scarcity in the near future.
- According to the UN Report, water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population and is projected to rise. Over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge.
- Excessive withdrawal from surface waters, for instance, the demise of the Aral Sea was caused primarily by the diversion of the inflowing Amu Dar’ya and Syr Dar’ya rivers to irrigate water-intensive cotton and rice crops.
- Excessive withdrawal of water from underground aquifers where excessive freshwater abstraction has allowed seawater to enter aquifers, thereby making the water so saline that it is unfit for human use.
TOP NEWS INVOLVING WATER SCARCITY
- According to the Guardian News, water scarcity largely affects the poor who in the end are subjected to polluted water resources. The poor are the worst hit, competing for demands for water means that those who are poorer or marginalized find it more difficult to get water than the rich and powerful. Many governments and privatized water companies concentrate their provision on wealthy districts and prioritize agriculture and industry over poorer people while turning a blind eye to polluters and those who over-extract water from underground sources. Sharing access to water equitably requires good governance, tight regulation, investment and enforcement, all qualities in short supply in some world’s poorest and most water-scarce areas.
- Water pollution is one of the most urgent issues for the global community needs to address. Water resources are polluted because so much wastewater does not get collected or treated, thereby having adverse negative impacts on the society.
- According to a UN report, 80% of global wastewater goes untreated, containing everything from human waste to highly toxic industrial discharges. The nature and amount of pollutants in freshwater determines the suitability of water for many human uses such as drinking, bathing, and agriculture. In addition, pollution of freshwater ecosystems can impact the habitat and quality of life of fish and other wildlife.
- Pollution in freshwater ecosystems can include pathogens (largely from human and animal waste), organic matter (including plant nutrients from agricultural run-off such as nitrogen or phosphorus), chemical pollution and salinity (from irrigation, domestic wastewater and runoff of mines into rivers). Plastic pollution, and emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, also increasingly to put the world’s waterways at risk.
TOP NEWS INVOLVING WATER POLLUTION
- Rapid industrialization has been a major factor in contributing to global water pollution. According to the BBC report, a lot of saline effluents and other contaminants from industries are being drained on the sea has resulted in water pollution by increasing salinity. High salinity and reduced dissolved oxygen levels have profound impacts on benthic organisms, which can translate into ecological effects observable throughout the food chain.
ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER.
- According to a UN report, 3 in 10 people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 6 in 10 people lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities.
- According to the World Bank report, across the world, today 2.1 billion people lack reliable access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation services. Of the 2.1 billion people who do not have access to safely managed water, 844 million do not have even a basic drinking water service. Of the 4.5 billion people who do not have safely managed sanitation, 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services. As a result, every year, 361,000 children under 5 years of age die due to diarrhoea related to poor sanitation and contaminated water, which are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid. These issues have been a greater challenge of posing in global water crises.
- Lack of clean and easily accessible water, have impacted negatively on women and children. Children drop out of school and parents struggle to make a living. Children become more vulnerable to diseases due to dirty water.
TOP NEWS INVOLVING ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER.
- Many cities in the world would be facing a crisis in accessing clean drinking water. For instance, official regulatory bodies in Russia, admit that 35% to 60% of total drinking water reserves in Russia do not meet sanitary standards.
- Increasing amounts of untreated agricultural and residential waste in Cairo's R. Nile has facilitated pollution which according to World Health Organization figures show that Egypt ranks high among lower-middle-income countries in terms of the number of deaths related to water pollution.
- The World Bank reports, states "Water security is among the top global risks in terms of development impact in the world''. It is also an integral part of the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The world will not be able to meet the sustainable development challenges of the 21st century — human development, livable cities, climate change, food security, and energy security — without improving management of water resources and ensuring access to reliable water and sanitation services.
- Complex water issues have contributed heavy challenges on water security. The threats to water security may be attributed to population and economic growth which have placed unprecedented pressures on water resources.
- Estimates show that with current population growth and water management practices, the world will face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by 2030.
- To address water security, most communities tend to rely only on "grey infrastructure" to deliver water security, such as reservoirs, aqueducts, and treatment plants, however, experience shows that natural infrastructure, such as the healthy forests, wetlands and river ecosystems from which we source our water supplies, also delivers value, thereby enhancing water security concerns.
- The widespread degradation of watersheds around the world is leading to impaired downstream water quality and diminished and less reliable flows. The deforestation, poor agricultural practices and other unsustainable land uses have caused moderate to high degradation in 40% of the world’s urban watersheds. These practices have had negative impacts on water resources and therefore have contributed to global water crises.
- According To Researchgate, water insecurity can be exacerbated by drought. More people are affected by drought than any other disaster type. In 2016, 411 million people in total were affected by disasters and 94% of those were drought affected. Droughts are also the costliest disasters, with significant impacts on agriculture in particular; droughts cause an average US$6–8 billion worth of losses in agriculture in the USA annually.
TOP NEWS INVOLVING WATER INSECURITY
- According to a BBC report, England's Environment Agency warns the country is facing water supply shortages by 2050 unless rapid action is taken to curb water use and wastage. Population growth and the impact of climate change are expected to add to supply pressures in the country valuable resource.
- Climate change has been a predominant factor in contributing to global water crises. For instance, higher temperatures and more extreme, less predictable, weather conditions are projected to affect availability and distribution of rainfall, snowmelt, river flows and groundwater, and further deteriorate water quality. Low-income communities, who are already the most vulnerable to any threats to water supply are likely to be worst affected. Changes in water availability will also impact health and food security and have already proven to trigger refugee dynamics and political instability.
- Climate change contributes to water scarcity and this could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP, spur migration, and spark conflict. Consequently, water will become scarce in regions where it is currently abundant — such as Central Africa and East Asia — and scarcity will greatly worsen in regions where water is already in short supply — such as the Middle East and the Sahel in Africa. These regions could see their growth rates decline by as much as 6% of GDP by 2050 due to water-related impacts on agriculture, health, and incomes.
TOP NEWS INVOLVING CLIMATE CHANGE
- According to the New York Times, Britain which is a rainy city would be short of water by 2050. The reasons behind this are attributed to climate change and population growth which piles pressure on the existing water resources therefore, proposed sustainable measures are needed and a call for a change of attitude toward water conservation practices to help tackle the problem.
- In Central Asia, rising temperatures have contributed to the rapid melting of glaciers due to climate change. This means less water for people and crops in the near future.
- Smaller glaciers in places like the Rockies and the Andes have also disappeared. Even if greenhouse gas emissions were sharply curtailed immediately, there has already been enough warming to continue shrinking glaciers around the world.
ADDRESSING GLOBAL WATER ISSUES
- The global society has put dedicated efforts to ensure the importance of sustainability of water resources as a political agenda. One of such efforts is to establish Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) — with an aim to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Building on the relevant Millennium Development Goal, SDG 6 addresses the sustainability of water and sanitation access by focusing on the quality, availability and management of freshwater resources.
- SDG 6 recognizes that social development and economic prosperity depend on the sustainable management and sharing of freshwater resources and ecosystems. SDG 6 acknowledges that ecosystems and their inhabitants, including humans, are water users and that their activities on land can compromise the quality and availability of fresh water. Water-related ecosystems addressed in SDG 6 include wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes, which sustain a high level of biodiversity and life.
- If water resources are well-managed, water-related ecosystems would contribute to addressing competing demands for water, mitigate climate change risks and help build community peace and trust. They are therefore essential for achieving sustainable development, peace, security and human health and well-being.
TOP NEWS INVOLVING SUSTAINABILITY
FOSTERING SUSTAINABLE GOALS
- To address water scarcity is to effect sustainable development goals. According to the World Forum, the UN officially recognizes equitable, safe drinking water and affordable sanitation as human rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ambitiously challenges the world body to provide this right to all, however, international attention has not translated into what is required — thoughtful, sustainable investments to address water scarcity.
EFFICIENT AND SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES TO ACCESSIBLE WATER.
- Global water crises arise from issues such as no global governance system for water. Since, water is managed at a local level they are often poorly managed. The technology needed to help us use water efficiently and equitably exists, but often is not implemented. “In many instances, proper management of known technology [such as pumps, rainwater collectors, storage cisterns and latrines] rather than new technological solutions is sufficient to ensure users receive adequate services,”. For instance, in many remote parts of sub-Saharan Africa, “there may be sufficient supplies of groundwater but there has not been enough investment in service delivery and service management to ensure that people can access this water”.
To determine the key issues affecting water globally, we opted to search credible reports from the World Bank, United Nations, Non-Governmental Organizations and other institutional reports on global water crises. We found very interesting facts relating to global water issues and realized that this area is diverse and greatly discussed. Several issues such as climate change, pollution, water scarcity and water security came out as crises affecting water in a global context.
To identify the top news stories revolving around global water crises, we looked for the most recent publications, journals, news articles from BBC, CNN, New York Times, and the Guardian. This research proved to be fruitful as major issues reported in regard to water crises were found to be water pollution, water security, accessibility to clean water, water scarcity. During our search, pollution, water scarcity, accessibility to clean water, and water insecurity are the most current issues while climate change is an issue projected to occur in the next few years. From our research, sustainable development goals are measures that have been put in place to combat global water crises.