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9 October 2013

 

Water Summit focuses on water and sustainable development

The Budapest Water Summit (8-11 October) is focusing on the vital role of water in sustainable development and food security, and the challenges posed by a changing climate.

Only 2% of the world’s water resources are made up of freshwater. This scarce resource however plays a crucial role in all segments of nature, society and economy. In view of the projected growth in popular demand for water and an accelerating climate change it is expected that by 2030 some 40% of the world’s population will suffer from water shortages.

“We must address unsustainable use,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the opening session. “We must use what we have more equitably and wisely. We cannot expect governments to do this alone. Guaranteeing a water secure world will require the full engagement of all actors, not least the world of business,” he told the session attended by heads of U.N. agencies including WMO Secretary-General and current UN-Water chair Michel Jarraud.

At a high-level panel discussion 9 October: “How to serve a growing population with water in a changing climate?” Mr Jarraud highlighted the need for more and better climate services to cope with the challenges. Improved water management is one of the priorities of the Global Framework for Climate Services spearheaded by the WMO.

Mr Jarraud said that accessible and accurate climate services were fundamental to a world with a population of 7 billion, projected to exceed 9 billion in 2050, with an accompanying increase in demand for water, food and energy. Already today, more than 1.7 billion people live in river basins where water scarcity conditions prevail, he said.

Mr Jarraud said the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underlined the important changes projected to occur in the water cycle. Globally, precipitation is expected to increase. It is virtually certain that changes in precipitation will not be uniform: some regions, in particular high latitudes, will likely experience greater amount of precipitation; other regions, many mid-latitude and semi-arid regions, less precipitation.

“With increasing populations at greater risk, we must become more proactive and implement risk management strategies, such as early warning systems for floods and droughts,” said Mr Jarraud.

Warmer air temperatures are expected to impact on water resources including diminishing snow pack and increasing evaporation, affecting the seasonal availability of water. Warmer temperatures are conducive to increased growth of algae and microbes compromising quality standards.

Changing precipitation patterns strongly impact the freshwater reserves originating from snow and glaciers. Increased rainfall can enhance surface and ground water supplies of drinking water but it will also result in increased stormwater runoff and the risk of contamination.

Additional investments in water infrastructure may be needed to manage both decreases and increases in rainfall which will require drinking water providers to reassess supply facility plans and sources.

Emergency plans for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure need to recognize the risk of more intense storms and the associated damage to public infrastructure, as well as the challenges from rising sea levels inundating fresh water systems.

 

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