There is certainly no denying that the climate emergency is incredibly serious and action must be taken now in order to ensure that we do all we can to protect the earth’s finite resources – but when faced with so many unique and different challenges, it can be hard to even know where to begin.
However, prioritising sustainable water production could help drive progress on all other major global challenges, with Madeleine Bell, strategy and special projects lead for Desolenator explaining in an article for the World Economic Forum that, since water is the most fundamental and valuable resource we have, it will “underpin the success or failure of every other challenge that we face”.
She went on to say that it is essential to refocus attention on interventions that can drive progress for numerous challenges at the same time, with clean water the strongest building block there is.
However, 2025 is fast approaching and this is when experts predict that half of the global population will not enjoy reliable access to clean water – and this will certainly affect us here in the UK, despite our famously wet climate.
London, for example, is the ninth global city considered to be at critical risk of Day Zero, when demand outstrips supply, with serious shortfalls expected to be seen inside the next five years.
Prioritising accessible and reliable water supplies will mean that the world will increase its progress towards zero hunger (since agriculture makes up 70 per cent of water use worldwide), improve health and wellbeing, increase gender equality (since women and girls are mainly responsible for water collection, impinging on education and other opportunities), improve industrial productivity and so on.
Ms Bell concluded: “The world is still fatigued by the unique challenges of 2020, but we are buoyed by the positive global dialogues such as COP26 and the UN Decade for Oceans. This shows it is more important than ever to focus on high-impact interventions.
“Reliable, accessible and sustainable supplies of clean water are the strongest foundation we have to ensure the long-term success of our other challenges. Without it, we are effectively building on sand and risk wasting precious time, financing and resources.”
Where England is concerned, it seems that action is now being taken to determine the areas of water stress around the country, with the Environment Agency having recently launched a consultation to investigate this.
It will provide evidence on water resources so that water suppliers experiencing the greatest pressure can introduce the most appropriate water-saving solutions to help improve future water management and ensure that streams, lakes and rivers are afforded proper protection.
Water stress maps have now been created, using data from suppliers and the National Framework for Water Resources, taking into account environmental needs, water availability to 2050, the impacts of population growth and climate change, leakage improvements and planned water efficiency.