Facing Up to the Global Water Crisis
Thursday, September 1, 2011
With rising population growth and changes in the earth’s climate putting stress on the consumable 1% of the planet’s water, the global water crisis risks becoming a source of cross-border conflict.
Sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable given its dry climate, which is exacerbated by underdevelopment and mismanagement of water resources. In 2000, countries in Africa and in other regions set targets to halve by 2015 the number of people without access to these basic services. Some of them may meet these targets. In rural Rwanda, where nearly 4 million people gained access to improved sanitation between 1990 and 2008, household access to sanitation facilities has increased faster than in any other country in the region.
In fact, according to a report by the World Bank’s water and sanitation programme (WSP) released on the occasion of Stockholm’s annual World Water Week gathering of experts, sub-Saharan Africa has made significant progress. Across the 32 participating countries, coverage of improved water supply has risen by 13 percentage points between 1990 and 2008 to 58% of the total population. Improved sanitation coverage rose by 11 percentage points to 36%.
The progress made since 1990 points to a combination of political and economic factors. Low-income, but politically stable countries committed to sector reform have made greater increases in coverage in rural water supply and urban sanitation, reduced open defecation more markedly, and been more successful in keeping water supply coverage up with population growth in urban areas than either resource-rich countries, or their conflict-affected low-income peers.
Accelerating progress in providing sustainable, equitable access to water and sanitation requires two things. First, the mechanisms that convert funding into giving more people access to safer water and sanitation services need to be strengthened. Second, funding needs to be increased by at least $6bn a year to tackle a projected annual shortfall of capital investment.