Holistic management of the water cycle means taking into account the level of “water stress”, calculated as the ratio of total fresh water withdrawn by all major sectors to the total renewable freshwater resources in a particular country or region.
Two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and about 4 billion people experience severe water scarcity at least one month a year. Over the last century, global water use has increased at more than twice the rate of population growth. That growth, along with rapid urbanization, socioeconomic development and changing consumption patterns, continues to drive water demand, which is heightened by climate change. By 2030, an estimated 700 million people could be displaced by intense water scarcity.
Currently, one third of countries have medium to high levels of water stress. Countries with high levels of water stress are all located in Northern Africa and Western Asia and in Central and Southern Asia. To reduce pressure on freshwater resources, every country and region needs to increase the use of non-conventional water resources, such as the reuse of wastewater, desalinated water, and direct use of agricultural drainage water.
The “Water for the World” initiative
In 2017, three out of five people worldwide had a basic handwashing facility with soap and water on the premises, compared with less than one out of three (28 per cent) in least developed countries. That means that, globally, an estimated 3 billion people are still unable to properly wash their hands at home.
An estimated 673 million people (9 per cent of the global population) still practised open defecation in 2017, the majority of them in Southern Asia. Achieving universal access to even basic sanitation services by 2030 will require a doubling of the current annual rate of progress.