Around four billion people live in water scarce areas around the world, and current climate change estimates indicate up to 700 million of those will be forced to leave their homes permanently by 2030.
One in ten people also still do not have access to clean drinking water close to their homes.
This according to data revealed in a report issued by WaterAid, who said the impact of climate change on water supply is being “overlooked”.
“Without access to clean water, people’s lives are blighted by sickness, poverty and the endless drudgery of collecting water.
“Women and girls around the world already collectively spend an estimated 200 million hours a year – or around 23,000 years – walking to fetch water,” WaterAid said.
Although investing in water systems that can provide reliable supply regardless of weather conditions seem like a no-brainer, WaterAid’s report revealed only 5% of total global climate funding is spent on helping countries adapt to climate change – cash that is not targeting the most vulnerable communities.
“Some of the most climate vulnerable countries only receive $1 per person per year for investment in water.”
Children baring the brunt
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) revealed last week that 450 million children currently live in water vulnerable areas.
This translates to one in five children not having enough water to meet their daily needs, Unicef’s analysis quantified.
Most of these children reside in Eastern and Southern Africa, where more than half of these young lives face insurmountable difficulties accessing enough water every day.
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“The world’s water crisis is not simply coming, it is here, and climate change will only make it worse,” said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“Children are the biggest victims. When wells dry-up, children are the ones missing school to fetch water. When droughts diminish food supplies, children suffer from malnutrition and stunting. When floods hit, children fall ill from waterborne illnesses. And when water resources decline, children cannot wash their hands to fight off diseases.”
Demand for water increasing
More vulnerable communities are exposed to water scarcity each year, as populations continue to surge.
This, in addition to urbanisation, water misuse, climate change and subsequent extreme weather events, only makes the situation worse.
There are currently more than seven billion people sharing the world’s water resources.
Head of sustainability strategy at global asset manager Schroders, Hannah Simons, warned that water scarcity is here to stay, and should be an issue tackled by investors.
“Water scarcity is absolutely an issue that should be on investors’ radars, but the answers aren’t straightforward. Water is a much more localised matter than, say, climate change, and the degree to which a company you might invest in is at risk of water shortage is not always clear.
“Equally, while water has so far been priced to reflect its basic necessity for life, we’ll need to find new ways to incentivise investment in water, and that will create new opportunities and value,” Simons said.
Close to home
With South Africa ranked 30th on the water scarcity scale, vulnerable communities spending hours to get water is a hyper-localised issue.
From Day Zero to preemptive water cuts, a number of measures have been implemented to instil a sense of planning long-term for the possibility of diminished water supply.
Rand Water recently made the call to restrict water supply to a number of areas in Johannesburg, citing overconsumption concerns.
“We cannot afford to allow people to waste water. We have a responsibility to explain we don’t have enough water in this country, which is the 30th driest in the world.
“We have to ensure whatever of this scarce rescue we have is used responsibly,” Rand Water spokesperson Justice Mohale said.