Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Importance of Water for Sustainable Development

Better water management is essential to sustainable development. World Water Day was celebrated on March 22 and the theme for 2015 is, "Water and Sustainable Development." Water covers 71 percent of our planet's surface it is vital to life. Water is a crucial to human health, nature, urbanization, industry and energy production. This year the UN has launched a campaign focusing on water and sanitation. By 2030 the demand for water is expected to grow 40 percent and this burgeoning demand is compounded by increasing scarcity due to climate change.

Water is central to sustainable development and effective management is directly related to reducing poverty, Water resources, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

In his message marking World Water Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "To address the many challenges related to water, we must work in a spirit of urgent cooperation, open to new ideas and innovation, and prepared to share the solutions that we all need for a sustainable future." Ban also warned that access to safe drinking water and sanitation was among "the most urgent issues" affecting populations across the globe. "The onset of climate change, growing demand on finite water resources from agriculture, industry and cities, and increasing pollution in many areas are hastening a water crisis that can only be addressed by cross-sectoral, holistic planning and policies – internationally, regionally and globally," Ban said.

Almost 750 million people do not have access to clean drinking water and two and a half billion people around the world do not have access to adequate water facilitates for sanitation purposes.

We need water for our survival and for hygiene that combats disease. According to the UN, the return on investment of attaining universal access to improved sanitation has been estimated at 5.5 to 1, whereas for universal access of improved drinking-water sources the ration is estimated to be 2 to 1.To cover every person worldwide with safe water and sanitation is estimated to cost US$ 107 billion a year over a five-year period.

Nature and the ecosystem services upon which we depend are themselves dependant on water. We have yet to incorporate the true value of water into our economic models.

Water is key in urban settings particularly in the developing world. A million people moving to cities every week and one in two people already living in an urban environment. By 2050 it is expected that there will be another 2.5 billion people living in urban centers.

Our industries are also demanding large quantities of water. It takes more water to manufacture a car than to fill a swimming pool, 10 litres of water are used to make one sheet of paper and 91 litres are used to make 500 grams of plastic. The demand for water used in manufacturing is expected to grow by 400 percent from 2000 to 2050. Once again this demand is more acute in the developing world and emerging economies. The corporate world has become increasingly serious about water conservation and recycling.

The water and energy nexus is inseparable. Producing energy requires water and energy is used to deliver water.

Water is critical to food production. Some food sources are far worse than other. As little as one litre of water is needed to irrigate one calorie food, however, inefficient water use can mean 100 litres are used to produce one calorie. It takes fifteen thousand litres of water to produce a kilo of beef while only 3,500 litres of water to produce a kilo of rice.

More water is used in agriculture than in any human endeavor. Approximately 70 percent of the water withdrawn is used for agricultural. By 2050 we will need to produce 60 percent more food and in the developing world food production will have to double. Our current rates of water consumption for agriculture are unsustainable.

Water is also about equality in the developing world. Every day women spend 200 million hours carrying water. This detracts from time spent more productively. Every dollar invested shows a return between US$5 and US$28. Climate change further compounds the issue of availability of water and increases the amount of time required to get it.

It is critical that we do a better job of managing our water resources. We must also develop innovative approaches that will enable us to address increasing demand for water and growing scarcity due to climate change.

Summary of World Water Week 2015: Events, Ideas and Stories
Water for Development: World Water Week 2015
The Water Crisis and Development: World Water Week 2015 (Video)
Water is a Key to Sustainable Development
Climate Change Increases Risks of Water Borne Diseases Contracted by Swimming
Beaches are Facing Environmental and Climate Threats
World Water Week 2014
The 2014 World Water Development Report (fifth edition): Water and Energy
World Water Week 2013: Water Cooperation - Building Partnerships
World Water Day 2013: International Year of Water Cooperation

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