Water management lies behind most of the great development challenges of the 21st Century. It's obvious but we too often forget that we won't be able to achieve food security, energy security, healthy cities and productive ecosystems without greatly improving how we manage water. In the global north, the challenges of basic access to water services are less pressing than they are in the south but -- as hurricane Sandy showed New York -- the challenges of making the right quantity and quality of water available where it is most needed still loom large.
While on its path to becoming the largest city in the Americas, Sao Paulo used its natural capital - water - to generate electricity, fuel industry, and satiate its ever-growing population. Natural infrastructure was traded for the concrete form and the city’s great rivers paid a high price for industrialization.
The result? Tremendous growth (averaging 5% per annum) that stimulated rapid and unplanned migration to the city and environmental pollution. Urban sprawl generated little to no infrastructure for managing water, sanitation and wastewater, or solid waste. Clearing the land for houses caused erosion and compacted soils, and the resulting increase in runoff has made an already wet city even more prone to floods.
- United States
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Communities and Human Settlements
Pakistan’s population of nearly 181 million is growing at 2% per year; this population explosion has resulted in the country meeting the international definition of water stress—water availability in Pakistan has plummeted from about 5,000 cubic meters per capita in the early 1950s to less than 1,100 m3 per capita in 2011.
This ominous, mounting water paucity impairs the lives of Pakistan’s rural women, who bear the arduous responsibility of collecting and providing water for their households. The absence of a safe water supply at or near their homes—and the resulting need to walk up to 4 km or more to get water each day—has aggravated the burden of women’s duties in many ways, making them vulnerable in terms of both their health and personal safety.
Rural women are the worst victims of water scarcity; however, in some communities, evidence indicates that women are emerging as a “herald of change.”
All climate negotiations have been based on staying below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Yet it looks increasingly unlikely that that will be possible. A new report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, suggests that there is a 40 percent chance that we will reach 4°C by 2100 even if we stick to the agreed emission reduction commitments.
What does water look like in a 4°C world?
Put simply: it's complex. Water is a complicated system and one of the major impacts of climate change is the effect on the hydrological (water) cycle. These impacts will coincide with an unprecedented increase in demand for water because of population and economic growth.
They both hold the potential to help meet the needs of the poor and end poverty. New ideas and innovative solutions are critical to address the 2.5 billion people who lack access to proper sanitation. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills more than 4,000 children a day and a lack of sanitation results in billions of dollars in economic losses to developing countries. Now that more people have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet or latrine, it’s time to leverage technology to help reach development goals.
Hammerby Sjöstad, in central Stockholm, is integrated urban water management in action. The district, which was intended to be an Olympic Village, once was an old industrial area, but it has been transformed into a sustainable city.
Starting about a decade ago, the planners took on the ambitious goal of reducing the environmental footprint of the neighborhood by 50% compared to other recent developments in Stockholm. They brought in new ideas and put them into practice at surprisingly low costs.
While I was in Stockholm for World Water Week this past week, I spoke to Erik Freudenthal from GlashusEtt in Hammerby Sjöstad about the project.
Thousands of water development practitioners have begun to descend upon Stockholm for World Water Week, the annual knowledge-sharing event hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute. It was raining earlier today in Sweden’s capital. But some parts of the world have suffered through unprecedented high temperatures and drought. The drought in the US can be seen from space, as described in this Wired magazine article. This drought has led to damages to, and drops in, yields of crops of maize and soybeans, for which the US is the largest exporter in the world. It has also meant higher food prices.
We hope you can tune in live tomorrow, April 20 at 2 p.m. EDT, as government ministers from 40 developing countries are meeting with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, UK International Development Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell, Chair of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, and major donors and water and sanitation sector organizations, to discuss speeding up global access to water and sanitation.