A global water and sanitation crisis is underway. The alarm was raised at the Water Conference that took place at the UN headquarters from 22 to 24 March 2023, in conjunction with World Water Day.
The symbol chosen this year by the United Nations to turn the spotlight on Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda is the hummingbird, inspired by an ancient tale. Faced with a great fire that is threatening the whole forest, instead of standing and watching the flames or running for life, the little bird decides to take action and fetch drops of water to help put out the fire.
Unlike a fire, water scarcity is less visible, especially in developed countries, and yet it does have a considerable impact. According to the latest UN World Water Development Report, worldwide water use has been increasing by around 1% per year over the past four decades, especially in middle- and lower-income countries, particularly in emerging economies. This trend is caused by a combination of factors, such as population growth, socio-economic development and changing consumption patterns.
Some forecasts predict this trend will continue to increase at an annual rate of about 1% in the near future. However, as the Report points out, real growth in water demand will largely depend on whether or not measures to improve water use efficiency are implemented in agriculture, industries and municipalities. It is therefore necessary to promote joint actions to change course.
The invitation to cut water waste is addressed to all of us because, to paraphrase the ancient tale, the greater the number of hummingbirds doing what they can, the greater the number of drops thrown on the fire. It is no coincidence that the theme of this year’s World Water Day, “Accelerating cooperation and partnerships on water”, focuses on the synergies that countries, institutions, companies, associations and citizens need to establish for a more rational, secure and democratic management of water resources.
It is a major challenge: water is, in fact, an irreplaceable asset in many respects, as explained by the scientists and experts who took part in the event “Acquae” promoted by the Foro Italico University of Rome and the Italian Society of Hygiene, with support from UNESCO, National Health Institute, National Research Council (CNR), Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), Southern Apennines District Basin Authority, INAIL, Italian Space Agency (ASI), FNOMCeO, Enpab, Federterme, Forst, FIN.
The initiative, dedicated to schools, took place on 22 March in Rome at the National Central Library. Topics discussed included the importance of water for health and nutrition, the role of satellites in the management of water resources, the relationship between pollution and human fertility, the contribution of research to reducing the water footprint. More about these and other aspects can be found in the video recordings of the participants’ presentations available on the dedicated page of FairPlay 4EU, Acquae’s educational project partner.
The United Nations World Water Development Report 2023 – Executive Summary