At the start of the UN's first significant summit on water resources in over 50 years, the secretary-general of the international organization warned that the future of humanity's “lifeblood,” water, is in danger everywhere.
“We've disrupted the water cycle, devastated ecosystems and poisoned groundwater,” Antonio Guterres warned during the three-day conference in New York, which gathers around 6,500 people including a dozen leaders of state and government.
Guterres said during the conference that “we are sucking humanity's lifeblood via vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable usage, and evaporating it through global warming.
In a study issued on Tuesday, UN-Water and UNESCO cautioned that polluted water is present in certain areas and that there is a potential of a worldwide water catastrophe as a result of these circumstances.
According to study lead author Richard Connor, if nothing is done, “it will continue to be between 40 and 50 percent of the population of the globe that does not have access to sanitation and around 20-25 percent of the world would not have access to clean water supply.”
According to him, “in absolute numbers, there'll be more and more individuals who don't have access to these services” as the world's population grows every day.
According to the paper, water “scarcity is becoming endemic” as a result of overuse and pollution, and global warming will exacerbate seasonal water shortages in both water-rich regions and those already under stress.
During the conference, governments and other key players from the public and commercial sectors will provide suggestions to buck this trend and advance the 2015 development objective of “access to water and sanitation for all by 2030.”
The latest high-level meeting on the subject, which is not covered by a universal treaty or a specific United Nations body, took place in 1977 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
Stuart Orr of the World Wildlife Fund said that the water shortage is already problematic enough without climate change.
“If governments and companies quickly embrace policies, practices, and investments that recognize — and restore — the full benefit of healthy rivers, lakes, and wetlands, we can create resilient communities and economies,” he added.
Yet, some observers have already expressed alarm about the size of the promises and the fiscal resources available to carry them out.
IT'S NOW OR NEVER.
According to the research, “about 10% of the world's population lives in a nation where water stress has reached a high or catastrophic level.”
Over half of the world's population “now face acute water shortages for at least part of the year,” according to the most recent UN climate assessment, which was released on Monday by the IPCC expert panel.
The poor are the group most affected by such shortages, according to Connor, speaking to AFP.
“No matter where you are, if you are affluent enough, you will manage to acquire water,” he stated.
Actor Matt Damon, co-founder of the charity organization Water.org, said on Wednesday that women and girls are also “disproportionately impacted” and that “millions of girls aren't in school because of this, because they're collecting water.”
According to the research, inadequate or nonexistent sanitation facilities may lead to water sources being polluted.
According to the report, at least 2 billion people worldwide consume water that has been polluted with excrement, increasing their risk of getting cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio.
This high amount does not account for contamination caused by microplastics, nanomaterials, pesticides, chemicals, and medications.
To secure access to clean drinking water for everybody by 2030, levels of investment would have to be quadrupled, the research concluded.
The research said that freshwater ecosystems “are among the most vulnerable in the world,” since they not only offer water but also economic resources that support life and aid in the fight against global warming.
The health, food security, ecosystems, economics, infrastructure, and climate are all directly impacted by water, according to Dutch King Willem-Alexander, who is co-chairing the summit with the president of Tajikistan.
“Now is the moment to go beyond our narrow and partial interests, grasp the larger picture, and take action.”
But, much as in the battle against climate change, the poorest nations lack the resources to do it alone.
Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano said that “we must create water infrastructure appropriate for a new world in which storms are more frequent and stronger,” emphasizing on storage on islands where sea intrusion into freshwater aquifers is becoming a growing concern.