Throughout the globe, a decline in freshwater resources profoundly threatens health and livelihoods. By 2020, climate change is projected to expose an estimated 75 million people in Africa alone to increased water stress.
Fresh water is essential for life, health and livelihoods. Climate change is expected to bring more droughts, floods and rising sea levels, which will make finding clean and fresh water more difficult. Increasing contamination, over-pumping of aquifers and degradation of freshwater catchment areas is making an already precarious situation worse. At the same time, pollution from industry, agriculture and improper management of human waste threatens previously safe water sources.
When less fresh water is available, people are likely to save it to drink and use less of it to wash hands and keep clean. Dirty water and poor sanitation can lead to diseases.
Moreover, the scarcity of water has the potential to cause conflicts, as people protect their supply, and increased migration, as people move to places where water is available.
Careful management of water and sanitation services is key. New methods and technologies should be developed to safely exploit and protect water resources. Water recycling and reuse may become not only more cost-effective, but imperative.