Water is central to sustainable development. It supports all aspects of life on Earth and access to safe and clean water is a fundamental human right. However, decades of mismanagement and abuse have increased water stress, threatening the many aspects of life that depend on this critical resource.
1. We are facing a global water crisis
Water is essential for human well-being, energy and food production, healthy ecosystems, gender equality, poverty alleviation and more.
But we are currently facing a global water crisis. Billions of people around the world still lack access to water. It is estimated that more than 800,000 people die each year from diseases directly attributed to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices.
Demand for this precious resource continues to rise: about four billion people suffer from severe water scarcity for at least one month a year. Because water is so critical to many aspects of life, it is important to ensure its protection and proper management to ensure that everyone has equal access to this vital resource by 2023.
2. Water and climate are inextricably linked
From increasing floods, unpredictable rainfall and droughts, the effects of climate change on water can be seen and felt at an accelerating pace. These impacts threaten sustainable development, biodiversity and people’s access to water and sanitation.
According to the latest State of the Climate Services on Water report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), water-related hazards have increased at an alarming rate. Since 2000, the number of floods has increased by 134 percent and the duration of droughts has increased by 29 percent.
But water can also be an important solution to climate change. Carbon storage can be improved by protecting environments such as peatlands and wetlands, adopting sustainable agricultural practices can reduce pressure on freshwater resources, and improving water supply and sanitation infrastructure can ensure access for all in the future has essential resources.
Water must be at the center of climate policies and measures. Sustainable water management can help build resilience, mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect societies and ecosystems. Sustainable, affordable and scalable water solutions must become a priority.
3. Four decades later, bold new commitments are on the table
The 2023 UN water conference will be a crucial moment to decide on coordinated action to “take action and address the broad challenges surrounding water,” in the words of Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Secretary General of the event.
The conference will bring together Heads of State and Government, ministers and stakeholders from all different sectors to achieve internationally agreed goals, including Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for a Fairer Future; ensure access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene for all.
One of the main outcomes of the conference will be the Water Action Agenda, which will capture all water-related voluntary commitments and track their progress. The agenda aims to encourage Member States, stakeholders and the private sector to commit to urgent action to address current water challenges.
4. Focus on five core areas
The conference will feature five “interactive dialogues” to strengthen and accelerate action for key wetlands.
The interactive dialogues also support the five principles of the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework, a fast-track initiative to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.
The five interactive dialogues are:
- Water for health: Access to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.
- Water for sustainable development: Valuing water, water-energy-food nexus and sustainable economic and urban development.
- Water for climate, resilience and environment: Source to sea, biodiversity, climate, resilience and disaster risk reduction.
- Water for cooperation: Cross-border and international cooperation on water, cross-sectoral cooperation and water for the 2030 Agenda.
- Water Action Decade: Accelerate implementation of the Decade’s goals, including through the UN Secretary-General’s Action Plan.
Take a closer look at each of the interactive dialogues here.
5. How can you participate?
Water is a crucial issue that affects everyone. As UN member states, governments and stakeholders prepare to make their own water commitments, the UN is calling on everyone to take their own action. Every action – small or large – can help accelerate change and action to achieve SDG 6 goals and objectives.
Here are some simple actions that can be incorporated into daily routines:
- Take shorter showers and reduce your water wastage in your home. Since 44 percent of household wastewater is not treated safely, shorter showers are a great way to conserve this precious resource. Lazy person’s guide to saving water
- Participate in cleaning up local rivers, lakes or wetlands. Plant a tree or create your own water garden. These actions can help protect water ecosystems from pollution and reduce the risk of flooding and store water efficiently.
- Raise awareness of the crucial connection between toilets, sanitation and menstruation. Break taboos by starting conversations in your local community, school or workplace.
Learn more about SDG 6 goals and continue to advocate for solutions at the local and national level. Support water-related campaigns and discover other ways you can take simple actions that can help protect water resources.