World Faces 40% Shortfall in Freshwater Supply by 2030

According to a historic study on the economics of water, demand for freshwater would exceed availability by around 40%, which could trigger a worldwide water catastrophe if immediate action is not done.

A seven-point call to collective action to achieve a sustainable and just water future is outlined in the report, which was released ahead of the UN Water Conference, which gets underway in New York on Wednesday. The report also urges governments to take actions that are “bolder, more integrated, across sectors and more networked at national, regional and global levels.”

worldwide freshwater resources have been worsened by climate change, population increase, and decades of poor management, which has led to a regional and worldwide systemic problem.

The main cause of water insecurity globally is contaminated water sources, which result from the flow of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural waste through most rivers and streams. This allows harmful chemicals and pesticides to seep into groundwater and freshwater systems, drastically reducing the amount of water resources available. Furthermore, since the 1960s, residential water demands have increased by 600% due to global population expansion and the development of contemporary household technology.

Our current systemic dilemma has far more serious consequences than previously believed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 2 billion people, or roughly 25% of the global population, live in water-stressed nations where their only source of clean drinking water is contaminated. These situations present serious health risks and can lead to illnesses like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, polio, and diarrhea. It is estimated that the latter alone results in 485,000 fatalities annually, whereas 1.2 million deaths are associated with contaminated water, most of which happen in low-income nations.

The report claims that water shortages endanger all Sustainable Development Goals, including ending poverty and inequality, enabling sustainable growth, and increasing the likelihood that we will miss the targets set forth in the Paris Agreement. They also interact with and simultaneously exacerbate global warming and biodiversity loss.

The report’s authors contend that while careless human behavior is somewhat to fault for the ongoing water problem, cooperation is still the only effective means of reducing its effects.

“We require a common good strategy that is far more aggressive and proactive. One of the main writers of the study and co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, Mariana Mazzucato, stated, “We have to put justice and equity at the center of this; it’s not just a technological or financial problem.”

Improving the management of the global water cycle, boosting investments through public-private partnerships, establishing just water partnerships (JWPs) to carry out water projects in low- and middle-income countries, and setting fair water prices are the seven main recommendations put forth by the report.

The authors also recommend gradually eliminating the approximately US$700 billion in water and agriculture subsidies, as they are connected to excessive water use. Using 70% of all freshwater withdrawals on average, agriculture is the world’s greatest consumer of water.

Prior to this week’s gathering, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “The UN 2023 Water Conference in March must result in a bold Water Action Agenda that gives our world’s lifeblood the commitment it deserves.” Only a few international leaders are anticipated to attend the conference, which is co-hosted by the governments of Tajikistan and the Netherlands and marks the first time UN member states have gathered to discuss water in more than 40 years.

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