The lack of access to potable water is an age-long problem facing global leaders and climate change is exacerbating the challenge.
In the Philippines, some 11 million families face the dilemma and are forced to rely on “unprotected” deep wells, springs, rivers, lakes and rainwater for their household needs.
Lack of sanitation facilities, according to National Water Resource Board (NWRB) executive director Dr. Sevillo David Jr., has also forced some families to defecate in the open, risking water contamination and diseases.
The water supply lack worsens during the dry season. “We have enough water supply for now. But the PAGASA says El Niño is looming,”says David. “We need to prepare for this as it could affect our water supply, particularly in our farms,” David said.
The water crisis received centerstage during a three-day United Nations Conference that drew some 10,000 participants in New York.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 24 called on the world to safeguard water resources to avert conflict and ensure future global prosperity.
Water, he says, is “the most precious common good” and “needs to be at the center of the global political agenda,” he said at the end of three-day UN conference.
“All of humanity’s hopes for the future depend, in some way, on charting a new science-based course to bring the water action agenda to life,” Guterres said. “Now is the time to act.”
The world is not on track to meet its 2030 water goals, including access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all.
Guterres before the meeting described water as humanity’s “lifeblood” and said its “vampiric overconsumption” had “broken the water cycle” and led to more natural disasters.
The world is “blindly traveling a dangerous path” as “unsustainable water use, pollution and unchecked global warming are draining humanity’s lifeblood,” Guterres said in a foreword to the report, released hours ahead of the first major UN meeting on water resources in nearly half a century.
Between two and three billion people worldwide experience water shortages. These shortages will worsen in the coming decades, especially in cities, if international cooperation in this area is not boosted, warn the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UN-Water in the latest edition of the UN World Water Development Report.
Globally, 2 billion people (26 percent of the population) do not have safe drinking water and 3.6 billion (46 percent) lack access to safely managed sanitation, according to the report.
The global urban population facing water scarcity, says the report, 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.
There is an urgent need 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, the report said.
In 2020, two billion people were still without safe drinking water and 3.6 billion lacked access to safely managed sanitation services, including 494 million who had to relieve themselves in the open, according to the latest figures compiled by the UN-Water website.
At least two billion people drink water contaminated with feces, and 2.3 billion lack basic sanitation services—conditions conducive to the spread of cholera, dysentery and polio.
While climate change makes droughts more frequent and intense, UN climate experts (IPCC) also estimate that about half of the world’s population suffers from “severe” water shortages during at least part of the year.
The World Bank estimates that climate change-exacerbated water shortages could cost some regions up to six percent of GDP by 2050 due to impacts on agriculture, health, income, and potentially forced migration or even conflict. Ray S. Eñano with AFP
Agriculture makes up more than 70 percent of global water usage, but as city populations have continued to grow, “water allocation from agriculture to urban centers has become a common strategy to meet freshwater needs,” the UN said.
But that’s not likely to be enough. The number of urban residents threatened by water scarcity is expected to rise from 933 million in 2016 to between 1.7 and 2.4 billion in 2050, according to UN-Water, which projects that India will experience the most severe effects.