Wild Water – The State of the World’s Water 2017
It’s official. In 2016, global temperatures reached a record high for the third year in a row, and reports of extreme weather events continued to come in from around the world.
Drought gripped southern Africa, leaving 14 million people in countries including Mozambique, Madagascar and Malawi facing severe food shortages. The Indian government acknowledged that more than a quarter of the country’s population was affected by drought, amid media reports of wells running dangerously low and farmers falling heavily into debt.
Climate change manifests itself mainly as water change. Unpredictable weather patterns – referred to here as ‘wild water’ – mean more storm surges, ruinous flooding, prolonged droughts and contaminated water sources.
The UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warns extreme weather events like these will become increasingly common. That is bad news for the world’s poorest people.
Climate change is expected to make an already difficult situation worse for the 663 million people in the world without access to clean water. It is predicted that over 40% of the global population is likely to be living in areas characterised as being under ‘severe water stress’ by 2050.
Tough competition for limited water resources, and poor decision-making by governments and utilities on prioritising how those resources are used, are already making it hard for the world’s poorest people to access clean water. Land use alters as populations, agriculture and industry move, change and grow; if it isn’t controlled, the result may be land erosion, pollution and depletion of groundwater.
Wild water events can wipe out fragile infrastructure, dry up rivers, ponds and springs which are sometimes the main source of water for the poorest people, and contribute to the spread of waterborne diseases.
Rural populations in poor and geographically isolated areas face particular challenges. Of all the people in the world without access to clean water, more than half a billion – enough to circle the world over six times – are in rural areas. Here, help is often slow to arrive after natural disasters, infrastructure is poor to non-existent, and a continued lack of funding is most acutely felt.
In this briefing, we look at how the struggle of vulnerable rural communities to access clean water is compounded by wild water events. We explore how improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene services makes them better able to withstand catastrophe, and why working towards the Sustainable Development Goal of reaching everyone everywhere with access to clean water by 2030 will be essential in building adaptable, more climate-resilient communities.