Water is at the center of economic and social development: it is vital to maintain health, grow food, generate energy, manage the environment, and create jobs. Water availability and management impacts whether poor girls are educated, whether cities are healthy places to live, and whether growing industries or poor villages can withstand the impacts of floods or droughts.
Water security is still considered to be among the top global risks in terms of development impact. It is also an integral part to 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.
Water security, however, still remains a challenge for many countries today coping with complex water issues that cut across economic sectors. Population and economic growth have placed unprecedented pressures on water. Estimates show that with current practices, the world will face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by 2030. Today, 70% of global water withdrawals are for agriculture. Feeding 9 billion people by 2050 will require a 60% increase in agricultural production and a 15% increase in water withdrawals. The world will need more water for energy generation but today over 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity. More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. And the number is growing fast. Groundwater is being depleted at a rate faster than it is being replenished. By 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in regions or countries with absolute water scarcity.
A World Bank report published in May 2016 suggests that water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP, spur migration, and spark conflict. The combined effects of growing populations, rising incomes, and expanding cities will see demand for water rising exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain.
All of this is happening in a context where the crucial agenda of access to services is still unfinished. Despite impressive gains over the past several decades, today, 2.4 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, of which 1 billion practice open defecation. At least 663 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Poor sanitation, water, and hygiene lead to about 675,000 premature deaths annually, and estimated annual economic losses of up to 7% of GDP in some countries.
Last Updated: Sep 16, 2016