A move towards water security after COP27’s ‘water day?’

Monday saw the climate summit in Egypt turn its attention towards ‘sustainable water resource management’ in a world impacted by the climate crisis. Talks were scheduled to cover topics including water scarcity, the increasing risk of drought and the development of early warning systems to defend against failing rains and catastrophic floods.

COP27’s ‘water day’ comes in the wake of a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) which describes more than 100 hazardous weather events last year in Asia alone, with three quarters being flooding or storm events.

Although not every event is linked to human-induced climate change, patterns and trends make it clear that as the world warms artificially – currently around 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels – such events are becoming more frequent.

Conversely, changes to the global water cycle are making evaporation of surface water and resulting droughts more common, particularly in the developing world. Data from the World Health Organisation suggests that half of the world’s population could be living in water-stressed areas by 2025. ‘For water, it’s now or never,’ noted Henk Ovink, Water Envoy from the Netherlands.

gray concrete dam under blue sky during daytime

The main talking point to come out of ‘water day’ is the AWARE programme, which was launched by COP’s Egyptian hosts together with the WMO. ‘Water is life and is vital to sustaining lives and livelihood,’ said COP President Sameh Shoukry at the launch. ‘As we work to design and implement solutions across adaptation, water management must feature prominently in the discussions and actions’.

The ‘Action on Water Adaptation and Resilience’ Initiative has been created to push for water security through knowledge transfer and financial investments directly into vulnerable communities in Africa.

The agency UN Water believes 400 million Africans, around a third of the continent’s population, already lacks access to clean water. One option would be to take advantage of ground water sources instead of rivers. WaterAid and British Geological Survey investigations show east Africa has enough ground water for five years without rain if harnessed correctly. Financing would of course be key, and as yet, no specific funding has been put in place to back up the talks.

Solutions developed in Africa, such as methods of rainwater harvesting, smart irrigation and flood protection, could then be used in other areas of the world suffering from similar problems. AWARE is also seen as leading into the 2023 UN Conference on Water, which will take place in New York on either side of World Water Day in March.

Other side-line talks centred around making agriculture resilient to changes in rainfall patterns. International collaboration and cooperation will be key, since few water courses are locked behind national boundaries.

For instance, Pakistan is reliant on the good will of sometimes belligerent neighbours India and China for almost all its agricultural irrigation, taken from the River Indus. The construction of dams on the river’s upper reaches beyond Pakistan’s borders could easily impact the country’s agricultural sector. It’s a concern shared by nations reliant on river water right across the world, making the talks held on Monday as important as any other taking place during the COP fortnight.

Photo by Tejj


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