World water supplies, according to UN, are enough to provide equal access to all people. Unfortunately, due to poor economy or poor infrastructure (or climate disaster), millions of people die every year of diseases related to inadequate water supply and poor sanitation. In order to finally get UN member states to take action in this matter, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals was developed. From 2015, as the 6th goal tells us, we must work together to ‘ensure access to water and sanitation for all’. Why and how?
Water shortage affects the poorest the most
At the moment, over 2 billion people live with the risk of limited access to fresh water. About 1 in 4 healthcare centers in the world have inadequate sanitary infrastructure and insufficient access to water. It is also estimated that by 2050, at least a quarter of people may live in a country affected by chronic or recurrent shortages of fresh water. Drought affects some of the poorest countries in the world in particular, deepening hunger and malnutrition.
In addition, water consumption is uneven all over the world – those who have access to it, consume more than they need (and rich countries water lawns in the desert), while those whose water access is deficient, have even less as a result. The problem seems to be the distribution of water resources and money, allowing for better sanitary conditions.
Water ecological disasters
Water shortages, poor water quality and poor sanitary conditions have a negative impact, among others, on food security and educational opportunities for poor families around the world. However, this isn’t all – there is also another side to it.
For example, mass rainforest peatlands drainage, allowing them to be adapted for growing oil palm, causes floods in other, distant places. It often destroys crops and living space of local communities. In addition, floods account for 70% of all deaths associated with natural disasters.
An additional problem is the fact that such waters are often simply poisonous. More than 80% of wastewater associated with human activities ends up in the rivers without prior treatment. These are not only municipal sewage, but also waste from industrial animal husbandry or factories. It’s no wonder that every day nearly 1000 children die from diarrheal diseases associated with dubious water quality and poor sanitary conditions.
What can we do about it?
The Sustainable Development Agenda signed by the member states obliges them to act on the implementation of each of the 17 objectives.
In connection with goal 6, by 2030, each country individually and all collectively should:
- achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all;
- ensure access to appropriate and fair sanitation and hygiene, paying particular attention to the needs of women, girls and people in vulnerable situations;
- improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating the release of hazardous chemicals, halving the share of untreated sewage and increasing recycling;
- significantly increase the efficiency of water use in all sectors and ensure sustainable supply of freshwater in order to significantly reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity;
- implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through cross-border cooperation;
- protect and restore water ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes;
- expand international cooperation and support for developing countries in the areas of water and sanitation related activities and programs, including water sourcing, desalination, efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies;
- support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sewage management.
How will member countries cope with so many challenges? We’ll see in 11 years.