Unesco: between 2 and 3 billion people suffer from water shortages
The global urban population facing a water crisis could double by 2050
Globally, 2 billion people (26% of the population) do not have safe drinking water and 3.6 billion (46%) lack access to safely managed sanitation, according to the report, published by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water and released today at the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York.
Between two and three billion people experience water shortages for at least one month per year, posing severe risks to livelihoods, notably through food security and access to electricity. The global urban population facing water scarcity is projected to double from 930 million in 2016 to 1.7–2.4 billion people in 2050. The growing incidence of extreme and prolonged droughts is also stressing ecosystems, with dire consequences for both plant and animal species.
Nearly every water-related intervention involves some kind of cooperation. Growing crops require shared irrigation systems among farmers. Providing safe and affordable water to cities and rural areas is only possible through a communal management of water-supply and sanitation systems. And cooperation between these urban and rural communities is essential to maintaining both food security and uphold farmer incomes.
Managing rivers and aquifers crossing international borders makes matters all the more complex. While cooperation over transboundary basins and aquifers has been shown to deliver many benefits beyond water security, including opening additional diplomatic channels, only 6 of the world’s 468 internationally shared aquifers are subject to a formal cooperative agreement.
On this World Water Day, the United Nations calls for boosting international cooperation over how water is used and managed. This is the only way to prevent a global water crisis in the coming decades.
Partnerships and people’s participation increase benefitsEnvironmental services, such as pollution control and biodiversity, are among the shared benefits most often highlighted in the report, along with data/information-sharing and co-financing opportunities. For example, ‘water funds’ are financing schemes that bring together downstream users, like cities, businesses, and utilities, to collectively invest in upstream habitat protection and agricultural land management to improve overall water quality and/or quantity.
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