Working together for World Water Day 2020
UN’s World Water Day on March 22, celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It aims to trigger actions to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
World Water Day 2020 is about water and climate change – and how the two are inextricably linked. This year’s campaign shows how our use of water will help reduce floods, droughts, scarcity and pollution, and will help fight climate change itself. Berson, Hanovia & Aquionics are a great supporter of World Water Day and are eager to help spread the messages the UN wants us all to reach and act on.
In this article we will explain the UN’s 2020 key messages:
- Water can help fight climate change.
- Everyone has a role to play.
- We cannot afford to wait.
Key Message 1: “Water can help fight climate change. There are sustainable, affordable and scalable water and sanitation solutions.”
Climate change makes the world’s water cycle more variable, what leads to more extreme weather events. It also reduces the predictability of water availability, decreases water quality and threatens sustainable development, biodiversity and enjoyment of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation worldwide.
The growing global demand for water increases the need for energy-intensive water pumping, transportation and treatment, and has contributed to the degradation of critical water-dependent carbon sinks such as peatlands (turf, moors). In addition, some climate change relief measures, such as expanded use of biofuels, can further intensify water scarcity.
So what can we do to make water help fight climate change? In UN-Water (2019): Policy Brief on Climate Change and Water, following solutions are mentioned1:
- Improving carbon storage: Peatlands cover about 3% of the world’s land surface but store at least twice as much carbon as all of Earth’s forests. Mangrove soils can sequester up to three or four times more carbon than terrestrial soils. Protecting and expanding these types of environments can have a major impact on climate change.
- Protecting natural buffers: Coastal mangroves and wetlands are effective and inexpensive natural barriers to flooding, extreme weather events and erosion.
- Harvesting rainwater:Rainwater capture is particularly useful in regions with uneven rainfall distribution to build resilience to shocks and ensure supplies for dry periods.
- Adopting climate-smart agriculture: Practising conservation agriculture to improve soil organic matter (needed for the soil to retain water), reducing post-harvest losses and food waste, and transforming waste into a source of nutrients or biofuels/biogas can address both food security and climate change.
- Reusing wastewater:Unconventional water resources, such as regulated treated wastewater, can be used for irrigation and industrial and municipal purposes.
Key Message 2: “Everyone has a role to play. It is surprising how many water actions anyone, anywhere can take to address climate change.”
Hundreds of thousands of people are taking individual action on climate change as part of the UN’s #ActNow campaign.
What we eat has major implications for climate change2 . The destruction of rainforests to create land for agriculture, along with growing demand for meat, are major contributors to the increasing greenhouse gases which are taking a significant toll on climate and global food security. To top it off, we waste about one-third of the food that is produced. But more people are taking a closer look at what they are eating and the impacts of their diets on their health and on the environment. The UN’s ActNow campaign aims to inspire even more people to enjoy sustainable, climate-conscious and delicious food.
Making clothes has a huge impact on climate change3 . The textile industry contributes around ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—it uses more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The industry’s impact is not limited to global carbon emissions. It also produces about 20 percent of global waste water and 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated when most of these materials could be reused.
Here are five changes, the UN proposes we can all make today4:
- Take five minute showers: Water scarcity already affects four out of ten people. With 80% of wastewater never being treated, taking shorter showers is a great way to save this precious resource.
- Eat more plant-based meals: Dietary changes, featuring plant-based foods and sustainable animal-sourced food, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 8.0 gigatonnes a year of carbon dioxide equivalent.
- Don’t throw away edible food: An estimated 1/3 of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste. Reducing your food wastage reduces demand on agriculture which is one of the biggest water consumers.
- Turn off tech: Currently 90% of power generation is water-intensive. By powering down our devices when we’re not using them, the less energy needs to be produced.
- Shop sustainably: A typical pair of jeans takes 10,000 litres of water to produce, equal to what a person drinks in 10 years. Sourcing our goods from responsible sources can have a big impact on the consumption of water and other essential resources.
Key Message 3: “We cannot afford to wait. Climate policy makers must put water at the heart of action plans.”
The UN states that national and regional climate policy and planning must take an integrated approach to climate change and water management. Increased water stress and meeting future demands will require increasingly tough decisions about how to allocate water resources between competing water uses, including for climate change mitigation and adaptation. If we are to create a sustainable future, business as usual is no longer an option and water management needs to be scrutinized through a climate resilience lens.
More investment in improved hydrological data, institutions and governance, education and capacity development, risk assessment and knowledge sharing is needed. Policies need to ensure the representation, participation, behavioral change and accountability of all stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society. Adaptation plans need to incorporate targeted strategies that assist lower-income populations – those who are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts – to navigate new conditions.
Meeting the climate challenge means5:
- Acting now. Uncertainty about the future cannot be an excuse for inaction today; if the world is to limit global temperature increases to well below 2°C, we must act immediately.
- Considering water as part of the solution. Improved water management is an essential component of successful climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.
- Improving water management practices can help increase climate resilience, improve ecosystem health, and reduce the risk of water-related disasters.
- Ensuring transboundary cooperation in adaptation is needed to address climate impacts that cross national boundaries and to improve regional cooperation.
- Rethinking financing. Climate finance for water resource management supports community climate resilience, job creation and helps to improve sustainable development outcomes.
Find out more: UN-Water Policy Brief on Climate Change and Water.
On our LinkedIn profiles we share our day to day thoughts and actions in relation to World Water Day 2020. Follow us to read more.