Tuesday 27th September 2016                 Change text size:

World Water Day: increased energy usage puts ‘pressure’ on water, says UN



Photo: Brice Blondel for HDPTCAR via Flickr

Climate change and the continued use of polluting fossil fuels will “exacerbate water stress and scarcity” in many places, according to the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Speaking in a video message to a Tokyo event ahead of World Water Day, Ban added that water and electricity must be used fairly.

Michel Jarraud, chair of UN Water, echoed the secretary-general’s sentiments as the UN launched its World Water Development Report. He said, “The report shows that there will be a significant increase in the use of energy. This puts additional pressure on freshwater resources which is further exacerbated by climate change. Increased collaboration is needed on all levels.”

Water is likely to become more and more inaccessible in the future in many areas of the world. According to recent research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 52% of the global population will live in water-stressed regions by 2050. Another study suggested that climate change was putting 40% more people at risk of water scarcity globally.

Around 70% of water worldwide is used for agriculture through irrigation – meaning that the majority of this resource is used to create food, directly or indirectly, as in the case of crops to feed livestock.

Danielle Nierenberg, president of the Food Think Tank, wrote on her blog that irrigation practices are crucial in food production.

Unfortunately, irrigation is also the source of excessive water depletion from aquifers, erosion and soil degradation”, she said.

“But using rainwater harvesting, zai pits, micro-irrigation, bottle irrigation, gravity drip buckets, rotational grazing systems, and other water-saving practices can all help create diverse landscapes, supporting wildlife and culture.”

She added, “Eaters and consumers can all do their part to save water by incorporating more native foods into their diets, eating more locally grown foods and less meat, steaming vegetables rather than boiling them, reducing food waste, reconsidering lawn and garden irrigation methods, and supporting family farmers that use less water intensive practices.”

Elsewhere, leading agribusiness Olam was invited to be part of the steering committee of the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate. The initiative aims to assist companies in disclosing water sustainability practices.

Chris Brown, Olam’s corporate responsibility and sustainability environment manager, commented, “Serving these UN committees allows Olam to collaborate at the highest level with like-minded organisations as we progress towards our goal of end-to-end sustainable supply chains by 2020.

“Equally, by supporting initiatives such as the UN’s World Water Day this Saturday, we are able to engage our staff at a grassroots level with learning and best practice.”

Further reading:

Climate change puts more people at risk of water scarcity

The real green deal: bringing energy, water and waste under control

‘Monetise’ risks to encourage long-term investment in water security

Water efficiency could provide 3.7m jobs by 2020

52% of global population to live in ‘water-stressed areas’ by 2050


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