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 emerging as the number one global risk in terms of development impact and 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 who are 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 forecasted 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.
Climate change will make water more unpredictable. A World Bank report suggests that in a 4°Celsius warmer world, water stress will increase in areas around the world. The roughly 1 billion people living in monsoonal basins and the 500 million people living in deltas are especially vulnerable. Poorer countries, which contributed least to the problem, will be most affected.
All of this is happening in a context where the crucial agenda of access to services is still an unfinished agenda. 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. About 700 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Poor sanitation, water, and hygiene lead to about 675,000 premature deaths annually, and the lack of access to safe water results in up to 7% of GDP in equivalent economic losses in some countries every year.
Last Updated: Oct 09, 2015