UN calls for greater collaborative effort to achieve global water security

The United Nations (UN) has called for stronger scientific alliances to understand and protect natural resources, warning that unless greater efforts are made to reverse current trends the world will run out of freshwater.

In a message marking yesterday’s International Day for Biological Diversity, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said: “We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards. Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met”.

“Although seemingly abundant, only a tiny amount of the water on our planet is easily available as freshwater,” he added.

Freshwater makes up around 35 million km3, or about 2.5%, of the total volume of water on Earth, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

According to the UN, under the current scenario 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.

Noting the mutually supporting roles of forests, wetlands and soil biodiversity, Ban Ki-moon said: “Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides are central to achieving the vision of a water secure world”.

“Integrating nature-based solutions into urban planning can also help us build better water futures for cities, where water stresses may be especially acute given the rapid pace of urbanisation,” he added.

He stressed that a focus on water and biodiversity is particularly important now as the international community strives to hasten progress towards the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline and to plan a new set of development targets.

“As the international community strives to accelerate its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and define a post-2015 agenda, including a set of goals for sustainable development, water and biodiversity are important streams in the discussion,” he noted.

Ban Ki-moon’s comments build on discussions held during the twentieth anniversary of World Water Day in March, where the UN announced that greater cooperation is urgently needed for more equitable use and division of water.

“Water is a common resource. Let us use it more intelligently and waste less so all get a fair share,” said Ban Ki-moon.

Leigh Stringer

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