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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)
The overall public and private investment needs for improved water supply and sanitation and water resources management are considerable. However, at the country level, meeting such investment challenges is highly feasible and within the reach of most nations.
Source: Stockholm International Water Institute, SIWI (2004-2005): "Making Water a Part of Economic Development: The Economic Benefits of Improved Water Management and Services". Stockholm. Sweden