Coping with water scarcity - Challenge of the twenty-first century
22 March is World Water Day, a day for reflection and for action to address the pressingissues related to the world’s water resources. Coordinated by the Food and AgricultureOrganization on behalf of the 24 Agencies and Programme Members of UN-Water, WorldWater Day 2007 will be marked in many countries in diverse ways. The theme of WorldWater Day 2007 is “Coping with Water Scarcity”.Water scarcity affects all social and economic sectors and threatens the sustainabilityof the natural resources base. Addressing water scarcity requires an intersectoral andmultidisciplinary approach to managing water resources in order to maximize economicand social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems. Integration across sectors is needed. This integration needs to take intoaccount development, supply, use and demand, and to place the emphasis on people,their livelihood and the ecosystems that sustain them. On the demand side, enhancingwater productivity (the volume of production per unit of water) in all sectors is paramountto successful programmes of water scarcity alleviation. Furthermore, protecting and restor-ing the ecosystems that naturally capture, filter, store and release water, such as rivers, wet-lands, forests and soils, is crucial to increasing the availability of water of good quality.Experts are divided on whether the world is facing a water crisis today. Those who believeso can point with justification to the accumulation of reports throughout the world. Forexample, in just one week in mid-November 2006, national media sources reported localbut high-profile shortages in parts of Australia, Botswana, Canada, China, Fiji, Kuwait,Liberia, Malawi, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, United Arab Emirates andUnited States of America. Then there are the silent crises, the millions of people deprivedof the water they need to live and to sustain their livelihood. It is indeed a powerful argu-ment that a global crisis need not stem from a single cause with widespread impact alone,but rather that a crisis can be made up of many similar incidents across the globe, even if the incidents are isolated from one another.Conscious of the increasing pressure on limited water resources, UN-Water has identifiedwater scarcity as the theme for World Water Day 2007. This day will provide an opportu-nity to reflect on the challenges posed by the unsustainable increase in water use and itsdegradation across the globe. It will also serve as a spur to action to reverse current trendsand work towards a more efficient and more equitable distribution of water for all.