Water Security to Local, Regional, and Global Challenges
Water, a Vital Source
Freshwater is a key resource for human health, prosperity and security. It is essential for poverty eradication, gender equality, food security, and the preservation of ecosystems.
Yet billions of people worldwide are confronted with serious freshwater challenges, from water scarcity, poor quality, lack of sanitation facilities, to waterrelated disasters such as fl oods and droughts. Some 80% of the world’s population lives incareas with high water security threats.
The UN General Assembly declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right in July 2010. But lack of access to drinking water of adequate quality and quantity remains one of the largest human health problems globally. Although the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on water supply was met in 2010, more than 600 million people still lack access to safe drinking water, with over 40% living in sub-Saharan Africa.
The MDG target on sanitation is unlikely to be met; some 2.5 billion in developing countries have no access to improved sanitation facilities. Poor rural populations are most affected.
Water resources are under increasingly severe pressure from climate change and other global drivers. Climate change alters rainfall patterns, soil moisture, humidity, glacier-mass balance and river fl ow, and also causes changes to underground water sources. At the same time, floods or droughts are rising in frequency and intensity. Over the next 40 years, approximately 800,000 new residents will move to cities around the world every week. Population growth and rapid urbanization will create further pressures on water resources and will have a tremendous impact on the natural environment. Deteriorating water infrastructure in many parts of the world will further impact public health and the environment. Given these challenges, the need to manage freshwater properly is essential. Sustainable water development should be at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda, with water-specifi c goals explicitly linked to other
Groundwater in a Changing Environment
Groundwater is a signifi cant component of the hydrogeological cycle and aquifers are an important hydrological unit. Globally, groundwater represents 98 % of the Earth’s unfrozen freshwater. In nature, groundwater drives many geological and geochemical processes and sustains various ecological functions and services. Groundwater should be integrated with economic, social and environmental dimensions of water resources. Many people depend upon groundwater for potable water and for ensuring food security and sustainable living. Groundwater may also be considered a safe source of drinking water in arid and semi-arid regions and small islands and in emergency situations.
The use of groundwater has signifi cantly increased over the last 50 years due to its widespread occurrence, high reliability during drought seasons, mostly good quality, major advances in hydrogeological knowledge, development of modern drilling and pumping technologies and generally modest development costs. In previous IHP phases, groundwater programmes and projects improved knowledge of groundwater and aquifers worldwide. Collaboration with the GEF as well as with other UN organizations, scientifi c institutions and universities contributed to improvement of the knowledge of groundwater and its resources and aquifers worldwide. As a result of these collaborative scientifi c activities, a fairly good understanding exists about shallow aquifers, methods of groundwater resources assessment and development, artifi cial recharge, groundwater pollution, and methodology of hydrogeological mapping. However, we still face many challenges: the complexity of aquifer systems, the increasing global risk to groundwater depletion, quality deterioration and pollution, growing demand for groundwater resources for drinking and other uses, potential infl uence of climate change on groundwater system, and resilience of communities and populations dependent on groundwater sources. These challenges call for comprehensive research and studies, implementation of new science-based methodologies and endorsement of principles for integrated management and environmentally sound protection of groundwater resources.