The United Nations have dedicated an entire decade to fighting one of the most serious risks facing our planet today: water scarcity. Water scarcity threatens the entire globe at every level, whether its social, economic, political or environmental. It’s a real global problem.
As climate change exasperates all efforts to provide water to a growing population, people and nations around the world are having to find solutions to this growing problem and ways to manage the natural resources in a sustainable way. While water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, according to the U.N. only 4% is freshwater and only 0.5% of this is suitable for human consumption. This means that more than 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water and about 40% of the global population face water scarcity.
A UN Global Climate report has addressed another alarming conclusion regarding climate change. Speaking at the launch of the State of the Global Climate report by the World Meteorological Organization, Mr. Guterres stated that climate change is accelerating faster than any efforts to address it. Mr. Guterres has in fact invited Heads of State to attend his climate action summit in New York on September 23rd and come prepared with a plan to achieve positive changes to fight climate change and reduce the global problem of water scarcity. With this call the U.N. hopes to demonstrate how sustainably-driven climate solutions can come from a range of areas such as energy, sustainable, agriculture, forests and oceans to positively fight the disastrous effects linked to climate change.
As one of the world’s largest problems to date, water scarcity negatively impacts billions of people around the world. Water scarcity leaves people with a lack of access to drinking water and the human body can only go so long without water. Water scarcity results in hunger because there is no way to water the crops people and animals need to survive. Water scarcity also results in a lack of education, as having no access to water makes it difficult for people to get the education they need as they become too sick to attend school or are too busy working to help get water to their homes.
“Hydrodiplomacy” is the need for international cooperation in the management of water across borders. This term was reiterated at the U.N. general assembly lead by Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon who said that in order to fight water scarcity every available resource must be utilized, whether it may be human, financial or scientific.
Water scarcity is a large issue in his country as well as in the rest of Central Asia. The country’s most important source of water is the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers which flow into the Aral Sea. The rivers are fed by glaciers in the mountainous region and there is a fear that the glaciers could drop by a third by 2025 due to global warming, resulting in a reduction in the flow of the rivers.
As this would prove disastrous for the country, Tajikistan is placing hope on the Rogun Dam being built on the Vakhsh River. It will become the world’s tallest dam at 335 meters and help the country manage its water better while doubling its energy production. Las Vegas has also adapted an effective solution to face the water scarcity problem in the world. A tunnel was excavated under Lake Mead near Las Vegas allowing water to be drawn from a pipe fixed at the bottom of the lake, fed to the tunnel and sent to a treatment plant before reaching the city. With this solution the city does not risk running dry when the surface level of the lake goes down in time of drought as water is constantly pumped from the bottom of the lake.
While these are just two solutions adopted in two different parts of the world to fight and prevent water scarcity, actions must be taken all across the world in order to truly fight this problem and make an impact. If action is not taken quickly, the U.N. reports that water shortages could affect 5 billion people by 2025 followed by conflict and civilizational threats.