Over the past 12 months, the world has seen water in its extremes. In the same year, the City of Cape Town, announced “day zero,” the day on which it was predicted the city would run dry, and a million victims of massive flooding were evacuated from Kerala, India. Floods, droughts, infrastructure shortfalls, poor quality and poor water resources management all made global headlines. Countries are facing a new normal where water is either “too much, too little, or too polluted.”
Co-author: Héctor Alexander Serrano, Water Resources Specialist, World Bank Water Global Practice
Also available in Español
Water Security is the new buzzword in the water sector… but what does it mean, really? And how is it applied to real life?
For countries and governments, the term national water security means having adequate water, both in quantity and quality, to meet all demands of the population, the productive sectors and the environment, but also dealing well with extremes, and overall managing the resource adequately and efficiently.
In Latin America, home for 650 million people, those changes are not an exception, and the term “Water Security” is becoming more and more relevant. In the most urbanized continent of the developing world, cities grow fast, vulnerability is latent in vast and fragile large peri-urban areas, and enhanced climate phenomena put high stress on water resources management, delivering of water services and means of production. About 227 million people still do not have access to safely managed water supply and more than 500 million do not have access to safely managed sanitation systems. In the Caribbean region, 26 million people fall into poverty each year because of natural disasters. Urban rivers and waterways in the region are among the most polluted in the world, since 70 percent of the wastewater discharged in the region receives no treatment.
Too much because the devastating impacts of floods, exacerbated by climate change, is hitting poor people first and worst. Too polluted because so much wastewater does not get collected or treated. And too little because across the world today 2.1 billion people lack reliable access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation services, which means that a majority of the global population go without safe containment, emptying/collection, conveyance, treatment and reuse/disposal of their waste. All the while, water scarcity could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP, spur migration and, in the extreme, spark civil conflict.
Tackling this crisis is one of the most urgent issues for the global community to address. That’s why a team of experts from the World Bank are attending World Water Week in Stockholm from August 26 to 31 to deepen knowledge, shape debates and amplify action for a water-secure world for all.
What motivates poor policy and investment decisions? Why do supposedly good policies not translate into practice? And how can we avoid perpetuating pitfalls between policy and pipes?
Our new paper ‘Aligning Institutions and Incentives for Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Services’, produced with the support of the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), examines precisely these issues. Through research, analysis, and case studies, the report posits that genuine, sustainable progress in water supply and sanitation service delivery is complex, iterative, and multi-faceted. Whether it’s expanding access, improving efficiency, or providing better services – all reforms require their own unique blend of policies, institutions and regulations and all take place in the context of their own unique enabling environment.
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.
How can we think in new ways about expanding farmer-led irrigation in support of global food security and poverty reduction? This was the question at the heart of the 2017 Water for Food International Forum. The theme, “Water for Food Security: From Local Lessons to Global Impacts,” was based on the premise that global breakthroughs are so often driven by local action.
Organized by the World Bank and the Daugherty Water for Food Institute (DWFI) at the University of Nebraska, and supported by several partners, the event showcased voices from farmer representatives, the private sector, national and regional policymakers, and major international financing institutions – galvanizing a coalition of support to legitimize farmer-led irrigation as a major development agenda, particularly for Africa.
This issue is one we should be thinking about more and more often. As populations continue to grow, there needs to be new innovations to increase sustainable food production, without draining the earth. With factors such as climate change impacting water supplies and security, business-as-usual just won’t cut it.
For this reason, on January 29th, 2018, the Water for Food International Forum Innovation Fair: Innovate to Irrigate, gathered together 19 organizations who are leading the way in this challenge, through creative technologies that support farmer-led irrigation practices.
As a new year of insightful and interesting blogs begins here, we celebrate some of the most popular posts on The Water Blog from 2017.
For the past two years, the rains have been poor in Somalia. What comes next is tragically familiar. Dry wells. Dying livestock. Failed harvests. Migration. Masses of people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The same is happening in Yemen, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. However, poor rains are not the only water problem that creates havoc. Floods, water-borne diseases, and transboundary water conflicts can all cause severe human suffering and disruptions to political, economic, and environmental systems.