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There are currently more than 1000 million people in the world that lacks access to an easily accessible and safe water source, such as a connection to water mains or a protected well. Instead, water access is limited or available through unprotected sources. The target, under the Millennium Development Goals, is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
According to Population Action International, based upon the UN medium population projections of 1998, more than 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will face water stress or water scarcity conditions by 2025. An area is experiencing water stress when annual water supplies drop below 1700 m3 per person. Water scarcity means that the annual water supply is below 1000 m3 per person. This graphic shows which African nations are expected to be experiencing water stress, and which are expected to be facing water scarcity, by the year 2025. It also includes a graphic which shows that as the world's population continues to grow, a higher proportion of the population will be affected by water stress and water scarcity.
The figure shows that most expenditure of R&D still takes place within the main OECD regions (with the United States the major location for foreign R&D). Developing countries are increasingly attracting R&D centres, however, although R&D investments remain relatively small from a global perspective. In summary:
Source: UIS Bulletin on Science and Technology Statistics, (2004): Issue No. 1, April 2004. A Decade of Investment in Research and Development (R&D): 1990-2000
The low cost of rainwater harvesting, together with its decentralisation aspects, enables people at household and community level to manage their own water, thereby reducing reliance on central supply systems which are either absent, unreliable or too expensive.
Besides access to safe water, rainwater harvesting yields numerous environmental, social and economic benefits and can contribute significantly to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Presence of a rainwater harvesting structure can change this vicious circle through creation of opportunities for health improvement, self-reliance and empowerment. Community centres and schools become more attractive because of the availability of (drinking) water.
Rainwater harvesting has proven to be an attractive alternative water source in areas where other means of water supply have no or very little potential. Of increasing relevance is the solution offered by (rain)water harvesting in protecting vulnerable communities from the expected negative effects of climate change.
Integrated Water Management (IWRM)
The grave risks associated with growing water crisis – illness, hunger, environmental degradation, conflict, stymied economic development – require urgent action in all parts of the world and by all people, from local communities to international bodies. The starting point for action is Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). The IWRM is an ecosystem-based approach that considers the relationship among natural resources systems, biophysical processes, and socio-economic systems and objectives, with a view to integrating them in the management of water resources.
The Key Principles of IWRM are:
Source: UNDP 2004: Water Governance for Poverty Reduction Key Issues and the UNDP Response to Millennium Development Goals – Key Issues and the UNDP Response to Millennium Development Goals. NY)
Agriculture is now and will continue to be a key sector for low-income countries and the poor who live there. In developing countries agriculture still accounts for more than 80% of water consumption and is consequently still the largest user of water (see figures).
It is also the thirstiest sector: irrigated agriculture accounts for almost 70 percent of the global freshwater use. Unfortunately, because of leakage and inefficient irrigation systems, 60 percent of this water is lost. Limited and unreliable access to water is a determining factor in agricultural productivity in many regions, a problem rooted in rainfall variability that is likely to increase with climate change. It is expected that the world's population It is expected that the world's population will increase from 6 billion to 10 billion by midcentury, and this will lead to greatly increased demands for food, primarily from developing countries. Currently, the 17 percent of the world's cultivated land that is under irrigation produces 40 percent of the food in the world. Much of the projected increased demand for food will have to come from improved and expanded irrigation, but this will be only a partial solution. Most irrigation systems are financially out of reach for poor smallholders. Most food demand for poor people will come from areas where investment in irrigation makes no sense, with too little return from the significant capital needed. The major part of the crops produced worldwide is still grown in rain-fed agriculture and in order to improve the livelihoods of the farmers in the developing world. UNDP (2004) emphasises that more has to be done to put on employing practices that ensure higher yields per water input.
Source: UNDP (2004): Water Governance for Poverty Reduction Key Issues and the UNDP Response to Millennium Development Goals – Key Issues and the UNDP Response to Millennium Development Goals. NY
Source: UNDP (2006): Human Development Report 2006, p. 138, modified. NY
Source: UNDP (2006): Human Development Report 2006, p. 138, modified. NY.