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World Water Day 2017
UNICEF PROMOTING SOUND STRATEGIES TO COMBAT GLOBAL WATER STRESS
By Cori Marshall
"Water is the essence of life." is the title of the first chapter of the report released by UNICEF for World Water Day 2017. Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, looks at the central importance of water in the lives of children, how climate change will impact access to water in different regions, and how the changes will be felt through water.
We had the opportunity to speak with Nicholas Rees, one of the producers of the report and member of the Division of Data, Research and Policy.
Rees began by explaining what happens when water supply does not meet demand. The term water stress is used describe situations of high demand and low resources, Rees said that is "defined as the ratio of water use to supply." Rees added that it was the challenges that "people have to deal in terms of access to available water that they use for drinking and sanitation."
Life in areas of water stress Rees describes as "difficult situation to be in." It doesn't mean that continued habitation in these areas is out of the question, Rees added "it doesn't mean that its impossible [or that] children can't survive." People living in these areas will have a harder time accessing clean water, and with the necessary adaptation Rees said that "definitely means an incredible burden."
Our conversation with Rees was underlain by the fact that "often its the poorest children who live in these areas that are most affected."
Our everyday actions and means of production play a key role in contributing to water stress. Our thirst seems to grow as our standard of living improves, Rees informed us that "water consumption increases as countries grow and industrialize." This trend does not only apply to states, Rees added that "people tend to use water more readily as incomes grow."
As more and more water is used to meet a growing individual demand, "the available water for basic services decreases." We have to be aware that of all of our planets water, fresh water counts for a small fraction, Rees said about 2.5%. This is further compounded by the fact that most of this fresh water “is in the form of ice or ground water” and not easily accessible.
With fresh water counting for very little of the Earth's water and a large portion of that being not easily accessible as Rees said, we see that "water is an incredibly precious commodity."
UNICEF has been on the ground for seven decades and as Rees states "we've seen the trajectory and the increased stresses that many communities [have] faced over that time." The international organization are backing sound strategies to help communities alleviate the impacts of the changing climate.
"One of the things that we are working towards doing, and we strongly suggest that communities do is diversify their water sources", Rees said. The impacts of change will not be uniformly felt around the globe and as Rees pointed out there may be regions where there is "increased floods sometimes even in the same areas."
Rees stated that "as climate change intensifies [there will be] floods and droughts, and severe weather [will] potentially contaminate water sources." This is why communities should not be dependent on a single source of fresh water.
UNICEF also promotes "good water and sanitation practices, such as the elimination of open defecation." According to Rees being proactive in the best course of action.
"if [the strategies] are implemented now and communities are used to them, in time of disaster those practices go a long way in prevent even more devastating effects."
Yes there is a lot that can be dine a community level but Rees believes that the state has a major role to play as well. According to Rees "governments can plan for potential changes in water demands [and] climate impacts that could impact water sources."
In the end we all have a part to play in preserving our most precious resource, and it will take an international effort. As Rees said "water is not restricted by national boundaries, and countries are going have to work together make sure that everyone has access to adequate water and sanitation."