World Is At Risk Of “Water Bankruptcy,” Warns UN

Courtesy of OOSKA News, an article on the UN’s concerns over global water shortages:

Many parts of the globe are facing “water bankruptcy,” as human and ecologically induced pressures accelerate depletion of river basins, lakes, aquifers and wetlands, according to a new UN report.

The new report, “Science-Policy Bridges over Troubled Waters,” produced by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations University, presents a comprehensive review of major water bodies in the world, carried out by UN agencies over the past two decades. It reviewed over 200 GEF-funded water projects.

“Insufficient and disjointed management of human demands on water and aquatic systems has led to situations where both social and ecological systems are in jeopardy, and have even collapsed,” says the report, which was released in Bangkok on September 24.

“River basins in particular are set to experience growing pressures due to urbanization, rising water scarcity and poor water quality,” it warns.

It stresses that current management and use of freshwater basins is not sustainable.

“The consequences of poor decision-making are dire; we face a ‘water bankruptcy’ in many regions of the world, with implications for food and energy security, adaptation to climate change, economic growth and human security challenges.”

Urbanization and economic activity are putting river basins under increasing pressure, and the situation will make water scarcity worse, as well as further degrading water quality, it says.

“Entire river systems have been altered by flow regulation and fragmentation of watercourses due to damming and high water consumption in dry regions have intensified.”

The report criticizes management of groundwater resources, which it says has been disjointed due to policy and legal loopholes.

“Transport along rivers, waste disposal, renewable energy, recreation and tourism are putting huge pressures on international waters,” it adds.

Policymakers have not fully prioritized holistic management of water resources, it says. “For example, managers concerned about efficient use of groundwater resources may not give much emphasis to the inter-dependency between recharge sites and biodiversity.”

The role of river basins in the global economic, political and social order is profound: “The largest cities globally are situated on river deltas [and] 10 river basins are home to a quarter of the world’s population, generating 10 percent of global GDP,” says the report.

Water scarcity is likely to be severe in seven of these 10 basins by 2050, and the situation will have serious implications for sustainable development and downstream ecosystems.

“The GDP in these basins — all located in developing countries, with the partial exception of Danube — is estimated to be as large as the combined economies of the USA, Japan and Germany,” according to the report.

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