On the occasion of World Water Day, UN agencies highlighted water stress as a problem for economic growth and human health, and called for decoupling water use from economic growth through holistic water management plans that take into account the entire water cycle.
22 March 2016: On the occasion of World Water Day, UN agencies highlighted water stress as a problem for economic growth and human health, and called for decoupling water use from economic growth through holistic water management plans that take into account the entire water cycle.
The UN World Water Development Report 2016 (WWDR 2016), launched on the Day, estimates that three out of every four jobs worldwide are water-dependent. The report, on the theme of “Water and Jobs,” states that water is essential to decent jobs and sustainable development, and links water stress and lack of decent work opportunities with security challenges, forced migration and a reversal of progress made on poverty eradication.
Meanwhile, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) highlighted an International Resource Panel (IRP) report that predicts severe water stress by the year 2030, unless current patterns of water use are addressed from source to distribution, economic use, treatment, recycling, reuse and return to the environment. The IRP, a consortium of scientists, governments and other groups hosted by UNEP, released the report titled, ‘Policy Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution,’ which says that demand for water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030. On the report, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, stressed that reliable access to clean water is a cornerstone of sustainable development. The publication proposes a range of solutions, including introducing economic incentives to curb water demand, increasing efficiency of water use, reducing water waste and assessing “virtual water,” which is the water used to manufacture goods that are traded internationally. Highlighting that success is possible, the report notes that in Australia, water consumption declined by 40% between 2001 and 2008, while the economy grew by more than 30%.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the UN marked the regional release of WWDR 2016 with presentations by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) at UN regional headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. Discussants focused on three areas of need for the region: addressing the gaps in water and sanitation through improving water infrastructure; improving efficiency in water use to facilitate economic growth; and enabling transitions beyond sectorial issues.
In Eastern Europe, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) highlighted its water management work conducted through its implementation of the ‘European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument East Countries Forest Law Enforcement and Governance II Programme’ (ENPI-FLEG), funded by the European Union. IUCN’s work shows that many rural communities in the region rely on forested watersheds for their drinking water. IUCN emphasized the need for locally-controlled forest management, a concept that includes secure tenure rights, freedom of association and access to markets and technology for local forest-dependent communities.
In Latin America, UN human rights experts stressed that improving water and sanitation services could still be the best solution to addressing health challenges, including the Zika virus, yellow fever and chikungunya. Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, reminded all concerned that 100 million people in Latin America still do not have access to piped water or hygienic sanitation systems in their homes. Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, highlighted the link between poor housing conditions where there are inadequate sanitation systems and where water may be stored in ways that attract mosquitoes, contributing to mosquito-borne diseases.
The Global Water Partnership (GWP) marked World Water Day with the launch of a video and a year-long #GWP20 campaign commemorating the Partnership’s 20th anniversary. The GWP was established to promote Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as a means of sustainable water management. [UNESCO Press Release] [UNEP Press Release] [Policy Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution] [ESCAP Press Release] [IUCN Press Release] [UN Press Release] [GWP Video]