About 5 years ago we embarked on a global initiative titled “Thirsty Energy” to respond to water-energy nexus challenges around the world. The initiative, a joint effort of the Water and the Energy Global Practices at the World Bank, has finally come to an end. We wanted to reflect on the lessons learnt along the way, as our team has developed a fantastic set of material and methodologies to move the needle forward on this issue. We hope that the global community takes advantage of this to ignite change.
After spending several years in front of a computer every day, I began to feel removed from those people who were the real reason for my work, which aims to build a safer, healthier and more prosperous environment. But when people I knew were directly affected by the issues I was working on, my work took on more meaning and urgency.
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The 8th World Water Forum was held in Brazil a few days ago. What's ironic is that the more than nine thousand of us attending this Forum were discussing water-related issues in a city of three million grappling with a severe water shortage. After checking in at my hotel, the first thing I found in my room was a notice from the Government informing guests of this crisis and recommending ways to reduce water use. We recently learned of the predicament in Cape Town, South Africa, which was on the verge of running out of this essential liquid—a plight facing many cities around the world.
As authors of the WASH chapter of DCP-3, we wanted to share some of our key takeaways below:
Transboundary waters—which support the socioeconomic wellbeing of more than 40 percent of the global population, as well as the ecosystems on which they depend—were a regular discussion topic in special sessions and high-level panel events at the Forum. This is not surprising given the complex blend of human, environmental and agricultural water stresses that is putting a number of the world’s 286 transboundary river basins on a trajectory toward high risk of water scarcity, and several toward closure—where water demand exceeds supply seasonally or throughout the year—by 2030. The below map, depicting the relative risk of environmental water stress projected for 2030, illustrates the potentially dire future of the world’s transboundary freshwater basins.
On a busy street corner in Nairobi, Kenya, Abuya uses water to prepare and cook the food she sells to passersby. At the market in Hyderabad, India, Dimah splashes water on her fruit and vegetables to keep them fresh. In the make-shift hair-cutting salon in her basement in Medellin, Colombia, Isabela uses water to wash her customer’s hair.