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Urgent improvements to water security are needed

Urgent steps to improve water security are needed across the world in order to prepare for the climate crisis, according to a new report published by the University of Oxford-led REACH research programme. 

The report highlights that while the immediate impacts of droughts and floods rightly grab headlines, the climate crisis is also impacting societies in more subtle and less visible ways.

For example, during a climate event, women, children, the sick and the elderly have the highest risk of death because they are most likely to be at home during the event. 

During climate shocks, parents also have to decide how to protect their children, with education often being traded in favour of physical health and household income generation. 

people riding on bicycle during daytime

This report follows a recent warning from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF that the world is on course to miss the UN Sustainable Development Goal – clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. 

Based on this the authors warn that: ‘Although water institutions are working towards climate resilience to manage risks from climate shocks and variability… more needs to be done to integrate climate resilience into water policy and practice.’

The report makes specific recommendations to improve water security for climate resilience, under three overarching themes:

  • More accurate and granular analysis of climate risk is needed to make climate information relevant to specific users
  • Metrics for monitoring climate resilience in water systems are critical to track progress and inform investments for water security
  • New institutional models that improve water security will be critical for climate resilience

Dr Katrina Charles, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Our research shows how climate change is likely to affect water supplies in different ways, in different places, and what that means for different people. 

‘We also see how impacts on society fall more on some than others. Climate change can impact not just physical health directly, but also areas such as women’s empowerment and children’s education, especially in certain parts of the world.

‘There is no doubt: local policies and local investments can make a crucial difference. It is vital that governments and others understand the importance of climate resilience measures that reflect particular geographies, and take action now.

‘We are making progress, with UK government funding, and brilliant colleagues and supportive governments around the world, but there is so much more to be done.’

Photo by Gyan Shahane

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