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UN warns of 'imminent' global water crisis

 Women in Lomirok in Samburu north constituency queue at a solar powered water pump to wait for their turn to draw water on March 15, 2022. [Michael Saitoti, Standard]

The world is facing increasing levels of climate change-driven water scarcity a newly released World Water Development Report 2023, says.

The report, which paints a grim picture of global water situation, particularly warns of seasonal scarcity it says will continue to increase due to climate change.

About 26 per cent of the global population does not have access to safe drinking water and about 46 per cent of people lack access to safely managed sanitation services, according to the report by the United Nations.

The UN World Water Development Report 2023 was released right before the first UN conference on global water scarcity in nearly a half-century, which started on Wednesday. While launching the report, the United Nations warned of an "imminent" international crisis.

Main findings of the report

The report says global consumption of water has increased by about one per cent every year over the past four decades "and is expected to grow at a similar rate through to 2050, driven by a combination of population growth, socio-economic development and changing consumption patterns."

The report underlines the huge gap in the availability of water and its usage across different regions, and the need to fill it to ensure all people have access to clean water by 2030.

Speaking at a news conference, Richard Connor, editor-in-chief of the report, said that the estimated cost of meeting the goals is somewhere between $600 billion and $1 trillion a year.

About 10 per cent of the global population lives in countries where water stress is considered "high or critical."

More than 70 per cent of water consumption takes place in the agricultural sector. However, with the growth in city-dwelling populations, "water allocation from agriculture to urban centers has become a common strategy to meet freshwater needs," the UN said.

The report says because of climate change "seasonal water scarcity will increase in regions where it is currently abundant - such as Central Africa, East Asia and parts of South America - and worsen in regions where water is already in short supply, such as the Middle East and the Sahara in Africa.

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