The lack of water has become the ghost that surpasses 2.5 billion people one-third of the world’s population live in areas marked by scarcity. For many of them, the solution would be to leave their homes in search of more favorable regions, to the point that there could be up to 700 million forced displacements by this cause before the year 2030. 11 large cities will soon be without water.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) guarantees the availability of water and its sustainable management and sanitation, given the importance to construct a just world. Experts estimate that more than 2 billion people currently live with “stress due to water deficit,” a term used when the proportion of freshwater used exceeds 25% of total resources.
Taking advantage of the celebration of World Water Day, the United Nations and the World Bank have released the report “Every Drop Account: an agenda for action on the water, which is basically called to invest in a key resource and especially scarce in rural areas.” “It is a matter of life or death,” warned the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.
Official development assistance focused on water has increased in recent years, and in 2015 it reached 8,600 million dollars, 67% more in real terms than a decade ago. However, the organizations agree that it is not enough and it is necessary to double the investment in infrastructure in the next five years.
Not in vain, the global demand grows around a 1% by a series of factors that have to do not only with the increase of the population or the economic development but also with the patterns of consumption. The last UN World Report on the Development of Water Resources, published on the occasion of the World Water Forum held in Brasilia, states that this trend will continue and may even grow in the coming decades.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, said in the text that “water scarcity can lead to civil unrest, mass migration and even conflicts within and between countries,” while the president of UN-Water, Gilbert F. Houngbo, has stressed that “faced with a pattern of accelerated consumption, the growing deterioration of the environment and the multifaceted impacts of climate change”, it becomes “evident” to review the current management of demand.
Reduce demand and improve efficiency
Already at present, 40% of the world population suffers from water shortages. However, between 24 and 700 million people could be forced to leave their homes before 2030 due to situations arising from these deficiencies, on which it is complicated to establish any forecast or evaluation, as recognized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
IOM, however, has directly attributed water scarcity, for example to situations of drought, massive displacements in specific regions. The severe drought in the Horn of Africa has already caused hundreds of thousands of displacements in Ethiopia and Somalia since the beginning of 2017.
The director of the Aqueduct program of the World Resources Institute (WRI), Charles Iceland, has called not to be alarmed by the possibility that there are up to 700 million trips – “I’m not saying it is not possible, but it is necessary that many things go wrong. Water scarcity and migration is a grave matter, especially in the Sahel, the Middle East, and India.
“Reducing the demand for water to a level consistent with long-term supply and be prepared for long and serious episodes of drought” are the key premises, explained Iceland. From “limiting the use of water in areas with high water stress” and “employing efficient technologies and practices” to reduce the demand for initiatives aimed at making the most of resources in agricultural areas, “around 70% of the water that is extracted all over the world is for irrigation.”
The director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Jens Berggren, has also agreed that “changing the way water is used in the agriculture and energy sectors and reducing waste of food and energy would be useful, to face the current challenges and take the first steps in a series of reforms that, in his opinion, have to be significant.”
Iceland has advocated a “3D” approach to the efforts, combining “development, defense and diplomacy” and involving international institutions such as the World Bank, NATO, and the United Nations, while Berggren has stressed that “to manage intelligent form the water resources, it is necessary to take action at all levels, from local governments to international organizations”.