The beginning of last week’s World Water Forum in Marseille
also marked the release of UNESCO’s fourth edition of the World Water Development Report
. Chief amongst the challenges outlined in the new report are meeting demand from growing population and consumption. Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water usage, according to the report, and globally we will require 70 percent more food over the next 40 years, introducing the possibility of overtaxing already-stressed water resources – all while adapting to climate change. There are substantial gains to be had in increasing farm-to-table efficiency, especially in developing countries, the authors sagely point out, but the supply challenge remains a huge one.
This year’s edition also adds several new sections, including on women and water. “The crisis of scarcity, deteriorating water quality, the linkages between water and food security, and the need for improved governance are the most significant in the context of gender differences in access to and control over water resources,” write the authors. “These challenges are expected to become more intense in the future.”
The integrated nature of today’s water issues is a highlight throughout the report. “Accelerated change” will create new threats and “interconnected forces” create uncertainty and risk, but UNESCO emphasizes that if policymakers are made aware of these issues, ultimately “these forces can be managed effectively and can even generate vital opportunities and benefits through innovative approaches to allocation, use, and management of water.”
Image Credit: Water Management Institute, via figure 15.5 from UNESCO World Water Development Report.