The world will not be able to meet the great development challenges of the 21st century – human development, livable cities, climate change, food security, energy security – without improving how countries manage their water resources and ensuring that people have access to reliable water and sanitation services.
The world is facing increased water stress, driven by population and economic growth, land use changes, increased climate variability and change, and declining groundwater supplies and water quality.
Water is at the center of economic and social development: it is vital to maintain health, grow food, manage the environment, and create jobs. Water impacts whether poor girls are educated and whether poor villages can withstand flood or drought.
But mismanagement of this basic element of life has led to millions of deaths and billions of dollars in lost economic growth potential annually, severely constraining countries’ development potential.
Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, of which 1 billion people practice open defecation. Poor sanitation impacts health, education, the environment, and industries such as tourism. It means that girls are more likely to drop out of school or fall victim to attacks while seeking privacy.
At least 748 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.
The global population is growing fast. Analysis suggests that with current practices, the world will face a 40% global shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by 2030. Feeding a planet of 9 billion by 2050 will require approximately 50% more water in 2050. More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. And the number is growing fast. How will cities where safe drinking water is already scarce cope with increased demand? Currently, 2 billion people live in countries with absolute water scarcity and the number is expected to rise to 4.6 billion by 2080.
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.
Last Updated: Oct 06, 2014