World Water Day is celebrated this year with a special focus on “Coping with Water Scarcity”.
Water scarcity can be physical, economic or institutional, and can fluctuate over time and space. Today, about 700 million in 43 countries suffer from waters scarcity, and by 2025 this figure could increase to more than 3 billion people.
The state of the world’s waters remains fragile, and the need for an integrated and sustainable approach to water resource management is as pressing as ever. Available supplies are under great duress as a result of high population growth, unsustainable consumption patterns, poor management practices, pollution, inadequate investment in infrastructure, and low efficiency in water-use.
Yet even more water will be needed in the future: to grow food, to provide clean drinking water and sanitation services, to operate industries and to support expanding cities. The water-supply-demand gap is likely to grow wider still, threatening economic and social development and environmental sustainability. Integrated water resources management will be of crucial importance in overcoming water scarcity. So will international cooperation, since many of the world’s rivers and aquifers are shared among countries. Such cooperation can also promote harmonious cross-border ties in general.
The Millennium Development Goals have helped to highlight the importance of access to safe drinking water supplies and adequate sanitation, which undeniably separates people living healthy and productive lives from those living in poverty and who are most vulnerable to various life-threatening diseases. Making good on the global water and sanitation agenda is crucial to eradicating poverty and achieving the other development goals.
The way forward is clear: strengthening institutional capacity and governance at all levels, promoting more technology transfer, mobilizing more financial resources, and scaling up good practices and lessons learned. On this World Water Day, I call on the UN system and all stakeholders to forge stronger partnerships and take more concerted action, not only this year, but throughout the entire International Decade for Action: “Water for Life”, 2005-2015.