A looming global water crisis that could “spiral out of control” is on the horizon as a result of rising water demand and the worsening effects of the climate crisis, according to a UN study.
According to the UN World Water Development Report released on Tuesday, the day before a significant UN water summit in New York, water use has grown by about 1% annually over the past 40 years, driven by population growth and shifting consumption patterns.
According to the study, there may be up to 2.4 billion people living in cities by 2050, nearly double the 930 million people there were in 2016. By 2050, the demand for urban water anticipated to rise by 80%.
At a press conference to introduce the report, main author Richard Connor declared that “there will definitely be a global crisis”. If action is not taken to solve the issue of water scarcity.
In order to stop the global water crisis from getting out of hand, it is urgently necessary to create strong international mechanisms, according to Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO. Water is our shared future, so it’s crucial that we work together to manage it responsibly and share it fairly.
Access to water is already a major issue. According to the report, 3.6 billion people do not have access to safely managed sanitation. While two billion people do not presently have access to clean drinking water.
About 10% of the global population already lives in countries with high or critical water stress.
According to Connor, the growth of cities, industries, and farmland is worsening already extreme shortages. Farmland alone consumes 70% of the world’s water supply.
Seasonal water scarcity is expected to increase in areas where water is presently abundant, such as Central Africa, East Asia, and parts of South America, according to the report. Meanwhile, scarcity will worsen in the Middle East and the Sahel area of Africa, where water is already scarce.
Extreme and prolonged droughts, made more frequent and severe by the climate crisis, are also putting pressure on ecosystems, potentially having “dire consequences” for plant and animal species, according to the report’s authors.
Better international cooperation to prevent water conflicts, according to Connor, is one solution.
Flood and pollution control, data sharing, and efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions should “open the door to further collaboration and increase access to water funds,” he said.
“There is an urgent need to establish strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control,” said Audrey Azoulay, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
“Water is our common future, and we must work together to share it equitably and sustainably.”