Water is the foundation of sustainable development. It supports all aspects of life on Earth, and access to safe and clean water is a basic human right. However, decades of mismanagement and abuse have exacerbated water stress, threatening many aspects of life that depend on this important resource.
1. We are facing a global water crisis
Water is essential for human well-being, energy and food production, healthy ecosystems, gender equality, poverty reduction, and more.
But we are currently facing a global water crisis. Billions of people around the world still lack access to water. It is estimated that more than 800,000 people die each year from diseases directly related to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
Demands on this precious resource continue to grow. nearly four billion people experience severe water scarcity for at least one month of the year. Because water is so important to so many aspects of life, it is important to ensure its protection and proper management so that by 2023 everyone has equitable access to this important resource.
2. Water and climate are inextricably linked
From increasing floods, unpredictable rains and droughts, the effects of climate change on water can be seen and felt at an accelerating rate. These impacts threaten sustainable development, biodiversity, and people’s access to water and sanitation.
According to the latest World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Water Climate Services report, water hazards have increased at an alarming rate. Since 2000, floods have increased by 134 percent and drought duration by 29 percent.
But water can also be a key solution to climate change. Carbon storage can be improved by protecting habitats such as peatlands and wetlands, adopting sustainable agricultural practices can help reduce stress on freshwater supplies, and improving water and sanitation infrastructure can ensure that everyone has access to vital resources in the future.
Water must be at the center of climate policy and action. Sustainable water management can help build resilience, mitigate the effects of climate change and protect societies and ecosystems. Sustainable, affordable and scalable water solutions must become a priority.
3. Four decades later, bold new commitments are on the table
The 2023 UN Water Conference will be a crucial moment to decide on concerted action to “take action and address broad water challenges”, said Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). and the general secretary of the event.
The conference will bring together Heads of State and Government, Ministers and stakeholders across the various sectors to achieve internationally agreed goals, including the UN 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goal for a Fairer Future; ensuring access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene for all.
One of the key outcomes of the conference will be the Water Action Agenda, which will include all voluntary water-related commitments and track their progress. The agenda aims to encourage Member States, stakeholders and the private sector to commit to urgent action to address today’s water challenges.
4. Focus on five key areas
The conference will feature five “interactive dialogues” to strengthen and accelerate action for key watersheds.
The interactive dialogues also support the five principles of the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework, which deliver rapid results to ensure access and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.
The five interactive dialogues are:
- Water for health. Access to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.
- Water for sustainable development. Assessing water, the Water-Energy-Food nexus and sustainable economic and urban development.
- Water for climate, resilience and the environment. Source to sea, biodiversity, climate, resilience and disaster risk reduction.
- Water for cooperation. Transboundary and international water cooperation, intersectoral cooperation and water in the 2030 agenda.
- A decade of water action. Accelerating the implementation of the Decade Goals, including through the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action.
Take a closer look at each of the interactive dialogs here.
5. How can you get involved?
Water is a critical issue that affects everyone. As UN member states, governments and stakeholders prepare to make their own water commitments, the UN is calling on everyone to take action of their own. Any action, big or small, can help accelerate change and action to achieve the goals and objectives of SDG 6.
Here are some simple activities that can be incorporated into your daily routine:
- Take shorter showers and reduce your water waste in your home. With 44 percent of household wastewater not being treated safely, taking shorter showers is a great way to save this precious resource. A lazy person’s guide to saving water
- Participate in cleaning up local rivers, lakes or wetlands. Plant a tree or create your own water garden. These actions can help protect aquatic ecosystems from pollution and reduce the risk of flooding and conserve water effectively.
- Raise awareness about the important link between toilets, sanitation and menstruation. Break taboos by starting conversations in your local community, school or workplace.
Learn more about SDG 6 goals and targets and continue to advocate for solutions at local and national levels. Support water campaigns and find other ways you can incorporate simple actions that can help protect water resources.