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Future of Water 2021

Without water, no life is possible

Photo provided by WaterAid

Tim Wainwright

Chief Executive, WaterAid

Our climate is changing at an alarming rate, and it’s making it even harder for the world’s poorest people to get clean water.

Without reliable and easy access to clean water, people’s lives are blighted by ill-health, poverty and the endless drudgery of fetching water. Climate change makes the situation harder.

But a simple tap that provides safe water to drink day-after-day no matter the weather, can bring protection against climate change and knowledge that tomorrow’s water will be as easily obtained as yesterdays.

Risks to communities of unsafe water  

Without a reliable source of drinking water, day-to-day life is more challenging. Communities are forced to depend on dirty water sources. This brings illness not only through waterborne illnesses but contributes to communities’ inability to protect themselves from infectious diseases.

Time spent fetching clean water, recovering from illness or caring for those who are sick is time that can be spent learning or making a living. For the girls and young women tasked with fetching water before school, walking further for water takes time away their education. Those who become sick from drinking dirty water lose time to earn a living and build a better future.

It is a great injustice that the people who will suffer the most from the climate crisis, have done the least to cause it.

The impact of climate change

The more our climate changes, the harder it will get for the most vulnerable people to access clean water. Combined with poor water management of water supplies, the climate crisis is taking away people’s access to clean water. More frequent and extreme flooding is polluting fragile water sources, longer droughts are drying up springs and wells, rising sea levels can pollute underground water supplies turning them salty.

The 2.2 billion people who do not have a reliable and safe supply of water, are without the most fundamental protection against climate change, which increases the unpredictability of weather patterns, resulting in extreme natural disasters. And it is through water that the immediate impact of the climate crisis is felt. 

Urgent changes are needed now

Unless urgent action is taken to both reduce the emissions that cause climate change and to protect vulnerable people against its growing impact, communities will lose their livelihoods as water scarcity takes hold.

It is a great injustice that the people who will suffer the most from the climate crisis, have done the least to cause it.  

Governments in low-middle income countries must prioritise water, sanitation and hygiene services as key adaptation strategies in their national climate plans. WaterAid is calling for high-income nations and donors to ensure that the world’s poorest counties have sufficient climate finance to help them bring a reliable source of clean water to everyone, as a vital protection against the destructive effects of climate change.

“Turn the tide: The state of the world’s water”

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