Cor Dietvorst/IRC – The different world water crisis

February 4, 2015 · 0 comments

Cor Dietvorst/IRC – The different world water crisis | Source: IRC, Jan 2015

The greatest risk that will impact the world today is a decline in freshwater quality and quantity. At least, that’s what the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded when they quizzed 900 experts for the 2015 Global Risks report [1]. But there’s a different world water crisis to the one the WEF talks about. “Systems that should give people access to safe water and sanitation either don’t exist or are breaking down, on a massive scale, across the world” [2]. 

Crisis? What crisis?
The WEF report assesses the likelihood and potential impact of 28 global risks and their interconnections over a period of 10 years. While water crises came eighth in the top 10 risks in terms of likelihood, they topped the list in terms of impact, ahead of the spread of infectious diseases, interstate conflict and failure of climate change adaptation. Unsafe drinking water and drought will damage human health and economic activity, the report says. The nexus of water, food, energy and climate change “is one of the overarching megatrends that will shape the world in 2030” [3].

Unlike droughts, floods and oil spills, non-functioning water and sanitation systems seldom make the headlines. Few people are aware that “one in three rural water systems in the developing world are not working” [2] or that many toilets built with government and donor funding are never used. Check out the “sad statistics” of water point and sanitation failures compiled by Susan Davis [4,5].

Solutions for “sad statistics”
Luckily, there seems to some sort of consensus that leadership is needed to solve both the water quality/quantity crisis and the “other crisis” related to the failure of services. In a series of blogs published last year, IRC CEO Patrick Moriarty discusses why government leadership and public financing are crucial to creating water and sanitation services that last: read Tools for lifeThe elephant in the room; and No more fairy tales.


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