At the start of the first UN Water Conference since 1977, a global water crisis is imminent, according to a new UN report.
New research has found that the number of people living in cities without access to safe drinking water worldwide will double by 2050, with an 80 percent increase in demand for water predicted for urban areas by that time, The Guardian reported.
“Water is our common future and we need to act together to share it equitably and manage it sustainably. As the world convenes for the first major United Nations conference on water in the last half century, we have a responsibility to plot a collective course ensuring water and sanitation for all,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay on the UN World Water Development Report website.
According to the UN World Water Development Report, today almost one billion people in cities worldwide are facing water scarcity, and that number is expected to increase to between 1.7 to 2.4 billion within the next 30 years.
The report found that water scarcity is also becoming more common in rural areas, with water shortages affecting from two to three billion people for at least a month out of each year, reported The Guardian.
“There is an urgent need to establish strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control,” Azoulay said, according to UN News.
According to the UN report, about two billion people around the world are without safe drinking water and 3.6 billion do not have sanitation that is properly managed, The Guardian reported.
Since 2002, funding for water development overseas has increased from $2.7 billion a year to $8.7 billion annually in 2002, according to the report.
A report by the Global Commission on the Economics of Water published last week found that global freshwater demand would exceed supply by 2030.
Seventy percent of the water supply on Earth is used for agriculture, according to lead author of the report Richard Connor.
Connor told reporters at a press conference at UN Headquarters that “uncertainties are increasing,” reported UN News.
“If we don’t address it, there definitely will be a global crisis,” Connor said.
Connor said economic water shortages, such as the failure of governments to provide safe access to flowing water in places like central Africa, was a huge issue. And that physical water scarcity was the most severe in the desert regions of places like the Middle East and northern India.
Connor did say that water as a resource “tends to lead to peace and cooperation rather than to conflict,” UN News reported.
Johannes Cullmann, scientific advisor to the president of the World Meteorological Organization, said that water is ultimately a human right.
“Cooperation is the heart of sustainable development, and water is an immensely powerful connector,” Cullmann said, as reported by UN News. “We should not negotiate water; we should deliberate on it.”
The UN Water Conference, co-hosted by the governments of Tajikistan and the Netherlands, is being held in New York through March 24.
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