Between 2,000 and 3,000 million people suffer from water scarcity in the world, a problem that will worsen in the coming decades, especially in cities, and that the United Nations Organization calls for combating with more "international cooperation" in the face of the "imminent risk of a global crisis. This is the main conclusion of the latest edition of the United Nations Report on the Development of Water Resources in the World, presented this Wednesday by Unesco and UN-Water in the run-up to the 2023 United Nations Water Conference , which will be held in New York between March 22 and 24.
Worldwide, 2 billion people (around 26% of the population) lack access to safe drinking water and 3.6 billion (46%) do not have access to safely managed sanitation, according to the report, which also notes that among 2,000 and 3,000 million people suffer "water scarcity for at least one month a year", with "serious risks" of access to electricity and food.
In this context, the global urban population suffering from water scarcity will go from 930 million in 2016 to double by 2050 (1,700-2,400 million). "It is urgent to establish strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control. Water is our common future and it is essential to act together to share it equitably and manage it sustainably," said Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, in a statement. a statement about the study released by his agency, which is based in Paris.
Globally, water use has been increasing by approximately 1% per year for the past 40 years and will continue to do so in the future. Meanwhile, in parallel, extreme weather events resulting from climate change are increasing. "From 2000 to 2019, floods caused US$650 billion worth of economic losses, affected 1.65 billion people, and resulted in more than 100,000 deaths. In the same period of time, droughts affected 1.43 billion people and estimates that the losses they generated amount to almost 130,000 million," the study highlights in its key data.
"The sum of floods and droughts represented more than 75% of all catastrophes due to natural causes that affected the population," he adds.
According to Richard Connor, a specialist at Unesco's World Water Resources Assessment Programme, "all the targets" related to water in the sustainable development goals for 2030 "are already behind schedule" and "all countries in the world present risks with respect to water quality", to a greater or lesser extent.
Achieving "universal coverage" of drinking water and sanitation services by 2030 "will require", as Connor explained in an online press conference prior to the publication of the report, "quadrupling the rate of progression" current improvement. This specialist also stressed the need to balance the "growing needs" of agriculture and industry, as well as to increase international cooperation.
UN-Water calculations determine that, in total, 153 countries share 286 basins and 592 transboundary aquifer systems, although very few are the subject of cooperation agreements. Global "collective action" on water would require, according to Connor, $1 trillion dollars a year in funding.
The measures that concern water and sanitation are also "rarely" part of the international commitments of countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Fighting a potential "global water crisis," however, is a matter of political will as well as social awareness, Connor said.
Therefore, in addition to the data and context, the 2023 edition of the UNESCO water report also highlights examples of collective action carried out around the world to alleviate water problems.