The Quest for Water

Vol. LV No. 1 2018

“The Quest for Water” focuses on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water for all. The articles explore important issues such as ecosystems in the global water cycle, the threat that climate change poses to water availability, and the role of gender and social inclusion in achieving the water-related goals and targets. This issue of the digital magazine of the UN system “buoys” the launch of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028.

“People are saying that the next war will be about water,” President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajčák said at a gathering of students at Seton Hall University, a member of the United Nations Academic Impact, a few months ago. “Let’s make sure there will be no next war and let’s make sure that we treat water the way it deserves.”

At a most basic level, human beings cannot survive without water. Equally important is sanitation, a lack of which negatively affects our quality of life and claims the lives of millions each year.

Water plays a crucial role in the development of mankind. From time immemorial people have settled near water, which has always been a source of life and well-being. Humanity has praised and glorified it as a sacred resource for thousands of years.

Shifting our priorities from economic growth to sustainable development is the political imperative of our time. To do so, leaders must deliver on water security, ensuring that water becomes an enabler, rather than a major barrier to sustainable growth. What is it going to take?

There are a number of challenges to large-scale implementation of ecosystem-centric approaches in water management. They include, among others, an overwhelming dominance of grey infrastructure solutions in the current instruments of many States, lack of quantitative evidence on how ecosystem-focused approaches perform, and a lack of capacity to implement such approaches.

cewas is the world’s first and only dedicated water and sanitation start-up incubator and business innovation training programme. Since its inception, cewas has created more than 40 international water and sanitation start-ups, and executed over 20 water entrepreneurship training programmes on four continents.

The issue of water, sanitation and disasters must be urgently addressed if we hope to make sustainable development a reality. Damages attributed to water-related disasters account for up to 15 to 40 per cent of annual gross domestic product for certain countries.

The World Water Council (WWC) considers the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be an endeavour of the highest importance for the achievement of water security throughout the world, which is crucial for a prosperous and equitable future for humankind.

In a landmark study published a decade ago, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) suggested that under likely scenarios the world’s freshwater supplies should be adequate to meet future demands from agriculture, industry and other sectors.

It is estimated that over the next 10 years, climate change and resulting weather extremes will affect around 175 million children a year. We need to increase equitable access to sustainable water sources and improved sanitation, so that in times of both stability and crisis, every child is given a chance to survive.

In the international water community, bottom-up youth engagement comes through a variety of civil society networks. While many youth initiatives may exist around the world, structured and meaningful involvement of youth is generally hampered due to various reasons that range from the lack of widespread support to the absence of proper platforms that sustain youth participation.

Today, 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed water services, and 4.5 billion live without safely managed sanitation services. This crisis costs the lives of around 340,000 children every year, with other impacts deeply affecting entire societies and economies.

Overconsumption of water is widespread. Rivers such as the Yellow River in China and the Colorado River in the United States do not even meet the ocean anymore. Along their way, the water from these rivers is withdrawn to supply farmers, industries and households.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been working towards this end for more than 40 years through its Division of Water Sciences, and, more precisely, the Member States of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the only intergovernmental programme of the United Nations system devoted to water research, and water resources management, education and capacity-building.