According to the UN, 46% of the world lacks sanitation and 26% lacks access to clean drinking water.
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According to a new report released on Tuesday, 26% of the world's population lacks access to safe drinking water, and 46% lacks even the most basic sanitation, just days before the first significant UN conference on water in more than 45 years.
In order to meet UN goals to guarantee that everyone has access to clean water and sanitation by 2030, a glaring gap still needs to be filled, according to the UN World Water Development Report 2023.
The report's editor-in-chief, Richard Connor, stated during a press conference that it is estimated to cost between $600 billion and $1 trillion annually to achieve the goals.
To ensure that money is invested in methods to sustain the environment, provide potable water to the 2 billion people who lack it, and provide sanitation to the 3.6 million in need, Connor said that forming partnerships with investors, financiers, governments, and climate change communities is equally important.
The report states that over the past 40 years, water use has increased by about 1% annually, and that this rate of growth is "expected to continue through to 2050, driven by a combination of population growth, socioeconomic development, and changing consumption patterns."
Connor said that actual increase in demand is happening in developing countries and emerging economies where it is driven by industrial growth and especially the rapid increase in the population of cities. It is in these urban areas "that you're having a real big increase in demand," he said.
With agriculture using 70% of all water globally, Connor said, irrigation for crops has to be more efficient — as it is in some countries that now use drip irrigation, which saves water. "That allows water to be available to cities," he said.
As a result of climate change, the report said, "seasonal water scarcity will increase in regions where it is currently abundant — such as Central Africa, East Asia and parts of South America — and worsen in regions where water is already in short supply, such as the Middle East and the Sahara in Africa."
On average, "10% of the global population lives in countries with high or critical water stress" — and up to 3.5 billion people live under conditions of water stress at least one month a year, said the report issued by Unesco, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Since 2000, floods in the tropics have quadrupled while floods in the north mid-latitudes have increased 2.5-fold, the report said. Trends in droughts are more difficult to establish, it said, "although an increase in intensity or frequency of droughts and 'heat extremes' can be expected in most regions as a direct result of climate change."
As for water pollution, Connor said, the biggest source of pollution is untreated wastewater.
"Globally, 80% of wastewater is released to the environment without any treatment," he said, "and in many developing countries it's pretty much 99%."
These and other issues including protecting aquatic ecosystems, improving management of water resources, increasing water reuse and promoting cooperation across borders on water use will be discussed during the three-day UN Water Conference co-chaired by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon opening Wednesday morning.
There are 171 countries, including over 100 ministers, on the speakers list along with more than 20 organisations. The meeting will also include five "interactive dialogues" and dozens of side events.