The world is in hot water, and it’s not just because of the intensifying effects of climate change.
A new UN report warns of an impending global water crisis is “spiraling out of control,” as increased demand and population growth is putting pressure on water resources. The report shows that water use has increased by about 1 percent each year over the last 40 years. With changing consumption patterns and a rising population, this is set to continue.
By 2050, the number of people in cities facing water scarcity could nearly triple from 930 million in 2016 to up to 2.4 billion. And urban water demand is expected to increase by a whopping 80 percent by 2050.
But it’s not just cities that are affected: seasonal water scarcity is set to increase in regions where water is currently plentiful, such as in Central Africa, East Asia and parts of South America.
The situation is dire: Two billion people currently lack access to safe drinking water, and 3.6 billion have no access to safely managed sanitation. With urban and industrial growth, as well as agriculture using up 70 percent of the world’s water supply, it’s not hard to see why.
The report’s authors emphasize the urgent need for solutions, and better international cooperation to avoid conflicts over water is one of them. Flood and pollution control, data sharing and efforts to reduce planet-heating pollution should also “open the door to further collaboration and increase access to water funds.”
But the question is, will action be taken before it’s too late? There is already a severe water crisis in some parts of the world, with 10 percent of the global population living in countries with high or critical water stress. If the world fails to act, the crisis will only worsen, leading to dire consequences for plant and animal species, and ultimately, for humanity itself.
“There is an urgent need to establish strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control,” said Audrey Azoulay, the director general of UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body. “Water is our common future, and it is essential to act together to share it equitably and manage it sustainably.”
Thankfully, global organizations have already been taking action to address the water crisis. Back in 2019, Edgar Sandoval Sr., president of World Vision, spoke with RELEVANT about how the non-profit relied on global partners to make a big difference.
“Reaching everyone in the world with sustainable water – well, that might take a miracle,” he said. “I assure you, it’s possible. And it can happen in our lifetime. Smart, passionate people are working on this – at World Vision, we affectionately call them ‘water warriors.’ They know the best ways to bring clean water to communities. They have the energy and the expertise, technology and tools. With the right infusion of funding and other resources, they can be unstoppable.”