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The Dream of Sustainable Water is Murky

The UN has a Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative (SDG 6) that tracks water and sanitation services worldwide. The goal is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. According to the report (1):

“SDG 6 is critical to sustainable development. Safe drinking water and sanitation are human rights. Access to these services, including water and soap for handwashing, is fundamental to human health and well-being. They are essential to improving nutrition, preventing disease and enabling health care, as well as to ensuring the functioning of schools, workplaces, and political institutions and the full participation in society of women, girls and marginalized groups.”

When you analyze this report, some areas of the world are worse off than others when it comes to getting water. I see water scarcity and water abundance (flooding, surge storms, tropical storms, hurricanes, cyclones, etc.) as the world's "canary in the coal mine" for climate change. Water problems offer a glimpse into the future in how climate change will affect areas of the world. It also helps you plan where you may not want to buy a home from a real estate perspective.

The report is depressing so you may need to drink wine (or some other form of alcohol) to absorb the disturbing facts.

Good News:

  • Since 2015, over 600 million people gained access to safely-managed drinking water services.

  • Globally, three out of four people used safely managed drinking water services in 2020.

Bad News:

Our planet has nearly eight billion people and many do not have access to water:

  • 2 billion people (26% of the world’s population) lacked drinking water services on premises, available when needed, and free from contamination (2020).

  • None of the SDG regions are on track to achieve universal coverage by 2030. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people lacking safely-managed drinking water increased by more than 40% since 2000.

Low income people are getting the short end of the stick.

  • 771 million people lacked even basic drinking water services in 2020. Among these, 8 out of 10 lived in rural areas. Nearly half lived in the least developed countries.

According to the report, achieving universal access to basic sanitation by 2030 requires a doubling of the current rates of progress, and achieving universal access to safely-managed drinking water by 2030 requires a quadrupling of the current rates of progress.

I don’t know how this is going to happen by 2030. We have to figure out how to accelerate the process of reaching these SDG 6 goals. First, we have to change our mindset about water. We are not putting enough emphasis on solving water problems across the world.

Water is not on top of people’s minds until a water crisis arises in their own backyard. Water issues are glocal, global and local. Local water issues can have devastating effects on global stage.

The future looks to include massive numbers of water refugees. How are we going to deal with a situation when millions of people are forced to leave a city that has run out of water. It’s going to happen. Where is the playbook for this horrible scenario?


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