By Stephen Kansuk, Head of Environment and Climate on World Water Day 2023
Water is the single most important resource without which no life - human or planet can survive. Yet today, half of the world population, four billion people live with severe water scarcity for at least one month of the year. Similarly, about 4.2 billion people lack access to proper sanitation. Changes in climatic conditions is exacerbating the pressure. The special theme for world water day 2023 reminds us to accelerate change to solve the water and sanitation crisis.
For instance, the State of the Climate in Africa report reveals that high water stress is estimated to affect about 250 million people in Africa. Projections for future outlook is concerning as four out of five African countries are unlikely to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030, if urgent actions are not taken. Increasing world population, changing consumption patterns, and expansion of irrigated agriculture lands have been identified as the main driving forces for the rising global demand for water. Availability of water has direct consequence on sanitation. The state of the world’s sanitation report by WHO and UNICEF warned that “the world is alarmingly off-track to deliver sanitation for all by 2030”. With only 7 years left to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) deadline, the report calls for the need to quadruple sanitation coverage if the world is to achieve the SDG sanitation targets.
Ghana is making significant progress to achieve its national target of equitable access to basic drinking water services by 2025 as reported in the 2022 voluntary national review report. While Ghana is on the path to achieving its national targets, the situation is not same for all regions. For example, more than a fifth of the populations in four regions – Northern, Oti, North East and Savannah – lack access to improved water and sanitation services. The main challenge has to do with increasing cost of water and sanitation infrastructure. This year’s World Water Day theme “accelerating change” is appropriate and timely. Three key accelerators must happen concurrently to achieve SDG 6: water and sanitation for all, with significant co-benefits for SDG 12: responsible consumption and production, and 13: climate action.
Acceleration must start from the Home
Efficient use of water and hygiene practices must start from the home. As the saying goes “charity begins at home”, so healthy living and cleanliness must start from home. At the household level, we must institute practices that seek to encourage efficient use of water. It is important to try and use the exact amount of water we need to wash. We must also install water dispensers and other water saving facilities to manage water use more efficiently. Responsible consumption behaviors will help us save more water. These little actions and behavioral shift when done by us all will translate into a better and healthy environment. Today’s world water day is reminding us to be "eco conscious Kofi and Ama", as called for by a UNDP study. So, let’s commit to take action.
Accelerate design and implementation of innovative financing models
We need to address the challenge of increasing cost of water and sanitation infrastructure. This calls for urgent action to accelerate the design of people centered and inclusive financing models through public private partnership business models to improve access to water and sanitation infrastructure. These models must be locally designed with active participation of local government authorities and beneficiary households. This will ensure that the construction of such water or sanitation facilities are aligned with local planning regulations. UNDP-Bloomberg Global Mayors challenge is one of such good examples, seeking to improve household sanitation. But this requires more partnerships and cooperation from multi stakeholders- the private sector, the UN system, government among others for upscale and transformational impact.
Accelerate adoption of water saving technologies and practices in the agriculture value chain
Globally, it is estimated that 72% of all water withdrawals are used by agriculture. The adoption of efficient water management practices in the face of climate change will contribute significantly to the call to take actions to sustainably manage water resources. Farmers like Kojo under the UNDP climate smart agriculture project are already poised to adopt sustainable water management practices in their rice farms. The Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) technology being introduced to the farmers under the project, will help reduce methane emissions and save irrigation cost and water.
As we mark international water day today, be the change and accelerate to change the way we use, manage, and consume water. Remember that access to water and sanitation services is a precondition to life and a human right.