A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warns about a global water crisis amid climate change. The report highlights the need for increased investment and cooperation in water and climate services. Water scarcity is a major threat to the economic and social development of many regions. It can lead to conflict and migration, which can impact the health of local communities. In addition, water shortages can make agriculture and the production of food more difficult.
According to the report, the number of people facing water stress is expected to rise to five billion by 2050. This could put a huge strain on water resources in already-affected areas, as well as in sub-tropical regions. However, most countries are capable of mitigating the negative impacts of water scarcity. They can also better manage the availability and usage of water and ensure a more secure supply of clean water.
The report cites a growing need to improve forecasting and early warning systems to monitor droughts, floods, and other water-related events. Over 60% of national meteorological and hydrological services don't have complete capacities to provide these services. There are also gaps in data collection, which are critical to these services. The report urges governments to fill these gaps and invest in better data collection and a more comprehensive warning system.
The report notes that the frequency of floods and other disasters has increased over the past two decades. For example, massive flooding occurred in China and India, as well as Nepal, in 2010. As a result, 134 percent more deaths were reported from flood-related disasters over the past two decades.
Water-stressed areas often lack adequate infrastructure for sanitation and storage. This can cause chronic hunger and disease in communities. Water scarcity can also lead to mass migrations, as some people try to move to other parts of the world where water is more abundant. Additionally, water scarcity can affect the global flows of goods. People can lose time to work and school if they are forced to travel to obtain water, and water-stressed communities can become more vulnerable to disease, such as diarrheal disease.
Climate change is increasing the risk of water-related hazards, as warmer temperatures increase the likelihood of unpredictable weather patterns. These changes are likely to exacerbate water stress worldwide, putting even more pressure on communities to find solutions to protect themselves from the hazards.
In addition to this, the report cites the need to integrate water and climate policies. The UN Sustainable Development Goals call for the smart management of water and sanitation. Although the goals don't explicitly mention it, the need to develop more sustainable practices is a vital component of nearly all mitigation and adaptation strategies.
The WMO report notes that water scarcity is increasing in a variety of locations, including densely populated urban centers. More than a quarter of the world's cities are experiencing regular water shortages. Likewise, the number of water-stressed countries is also growing. Most notably, Africa is among the most water-stressed regions.