Efforts are underway for World Water Day 2013 to bring attention to the 780 million people that lack access to improved sources of drinking water and the 2.5 billion people still lacking access to improved sanitation.
Today’s theme focuses on how water can be shared and bring countries together. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 to be the International Year of Water Cooperation with World Water Day under the same theme.
A new UN-Water analytical brief on water security released today provides examples of how shared waters provide opportunities for cooperation across nations to support regional economic integration, environmental conservation and sustainable development.
UN-Water said an estimated 148 states share a basin with one or several countries, which is a potential source of conflict, as actions upstream have impacts on downstream countries.
Examples include the Danube, which is shared by 19 countries and the Nile River by 11. Water over-extraction, diversion, pollution, scarcity and the neglect of existing agreements are often at the roots of water tensions, according to the UN.
“Water is central to the well-being of people and the planet," UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said in his video message for the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. "We must work together to protect and carefully manage this fragile, finite resource."
The Rio+20 outcome document identifies water as a key area for achieving sustainable development. With the world population expected to grow from a little over seven billion today to eight billion by 2025, water withdrawals are expected to increase by 50% in developing countries and by 18% in developed countries. Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources.