Extreme weather conditions are making water more scarce, more unpredictable, more polluted. Water is our most precious resource – we must use it more efficiently and responsibly. We must balance all of society’s water needs while ensuring the poorest people are not left behind. We cannot afford to wait.
As the global population grows, so does the demand for water, which depletes natural resources and damages the environment in many places. Using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gases. Solutions include protecting carbon sinks such as oceans and wetlands, adopting climate-smart agricultural techniques, and increasing the safe reuse of wastewater. Adapting to the water effects of climate change will protect health and save lives.
In November 2019, the European Parliament declared a climate emergency. The EU entered the New Year with the ambitious European Green Deal. “The climate emergency is a global problem that requires a collective global response. The European Union is ready to lead by example,” said the High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, in a joint statement marking World Water Day. “This emergency also affects biodiversity and puts overall sustainable development progress at risk. We must adapt to the water effects of climate change to protect health and save lives”.
The objective of the new European Green Deal is to reconcile the economy with our planet by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities. It is a roadmap for Europe to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050 while also tackling our environmental crisis, in particular pollution of air, water and land. Safe drinking water must be available, sufficient, accessible, safe, acceptable, and affordable for all without discrimination. However, despite progress, billions of people still lack access to safe water and sanitation. Achieving universal access to this right, ensuring available and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is the objective of Sustainable Development Goal 6. “Climate change is further challenging this objective”, said the EU High Representative and the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries “We must double our efforts. This is possible if we all act now. The EU is ready to play its part,” they concluded.
Providing clean water to children in the State of Palestine
96 per cent of water from the Gaza’s sole aquifer is unfit for human consumption, therefore the preferred strategic solution to provide its citizens with safe, clean water is the desalination of seawater. However, maintaining the equipment used for the desalination process is a big concern, as the WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) sector faces challenges with delays in the delivery of essential materials for repair work and the rehabilitation of water networks, notably as the result of Gaza’s blockade. To improve access to safe water, the EU funded the Gaza Strip’s largest seawater desalination plant to date, along with the Gaza Strip’s largest solar field, which will ultimately provide safe water to 250,000 people. This desalination plant and solar field were built by UNICEF.
Providing water, sanitation and hygiene in schools for young Sahrawi refugees
The Sahrawi refugee situation in Tindouf in South Western Algeria is one of the most protracted refugee crises in the world. Some 173,600 in 2017, refugees live in five camps in a state of complete dependence on humanitarian assistance. With the support of the EU, UNICEF launched a back-to-school project which seeks to reinforce the quality of the education sector, improve the learning environment for over 40,000 children and support the development of skills for education personnel, managers and teachers. The project also included the restoration and construction of 21 climate resilient schools, and aims to improve WaSH in schools, thus reducing absenteeism especially for girls.
Strengthening water and energy security in Central Asia
The EU and the World Bank last year signed an agreement for a €7 million grant to support water and energy security in Central Asia. As water and energy are inextricably linked in Central Asia, joint management of these vital resources is crucial for the region's sustainable development, poverty reduction and climate resilience. By its contribution to Central Asia Water & Energy Program (CAWEP), the EU facilitates regional collaboration on energy and water security matters to help the countries improve conditions for sustainable investment and socio-economic development “The Central Asia region has the most to gain from properly managing water resources under climate change compared to other regions. Our assessments show that of all the world’s regions, the impact of future water consumption patterns has the greatest impact on economic growth in Central Asia,” according to Lilia Burunciuc, the World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia.
The Aral Sea is one of the largest global environmental disasters in recent history. The consequences of this disaster impact more than 70 million people in Central Asia. More than half are young people. The EU also provides support to young “water leaders” from Central Asia and beyond who came together for the 1st Aral Summer School last year to learn about the environmental challenges facing the region.
In Europe and in the world, all minds are focused on actions to tackle the outbreak of the coronavirus and mitigate the effects of the crisis. The European Union works on all fronts to support these efforts. The latest information can be found on the dedicated European Commission website. We take this opportunity to thank all those who are working tirelessly to contain the pandemic and care for those in need, anywhere in the world.
Usually, World Water Day is a time to meet face-to-face and discuss how to tackle the global crisis in water and sanitation. With the coronavirus outbreak many of us need to change our plans for World Water Day events. Check out how to stay safe here