World Water Day 2018 explores nature-based solutions to the water challenges

World Water Day 2018 explores nature-based solutions to the water challenges

The United Nations is celebrating every year the 22nd of March as World Water Day. The theme for World Water Day 2018 explores nature-based solutions to the water challenges. By focusing on ‘Nature for Water’, the UN-Water that coordinates the efforts of UN entities and international organizations working on water and sanitation issues examines nature-based solutions that have the potential to solve many of our water challenges.

Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. As a result, 1.9 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. Therefore, the premise is to take ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure wherever possible. According to the Soil Science Society of America, green infrastructure refers to projects that draw from nature to achieve desired results; grey infrastructure includes the pipes, pumps, ditches, and detention ponds engineered by people to manage storm water.

The central message is that nature-based solutions, such as planting trees to replenish forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands, is a sustainable and cost-effective way to help rebalance the water cycle, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve human health and livelihoods. The numbers presented hereby stress the emergency of needed actions.

Water demand:

  • 1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services.
  • By 2050, the world’s population will have grown by an estimated 2 billion people and global water demand could be up to 30% higher than today.
  • Agriculture currently accounts for 70% of global water withdrawals, mostly for irrigation – a figure that rises in areas of high water stress and population density. Industry takes 20% of the total, dominated by energy and manufacturing. The remaining 10% goes to domestic use – the proportion used for drinking water is much less than 1%.

 Water availability:

  • Today, around 1.9 billion people live in potentially severely water-scarce areas. By 2050, this could increase to around 3 billion people.

 Water quality:

  • An estimated 1.8 billion people use an unimproved source of drinking water with no protection against contamination from human feces.
  • Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the environment.

Climate and environment:

  • The number of people at risk from floods is projected to rise from 1.2 billion today to around 1.6 billion in 2050 – nearly 20% of the world’s population.
  • Today, around 1.8 billion people are affected by land degradation and desertification. At least 65% of forested land is in a degraded state.
  • An estimated 64-71% of natural wetlands have been lost since 1900 because of human activity.
  • Soil erosion from croplands carries away 25 to 40 billion tonnes of topsoil every year, significantly reducing crop yields and the soil’s ability to regulate water, carbon and nutrients. The runoff, containing large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous, is a major contributor to water pollution.