The sustainable management of rainwater in dry and vulnerable regions must be included in the goals and targets currently being proposed by the United Nations Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a group of scientists and experts warned in a declaration issued at the opening of World Water Week in Stockholm.
In the declaration, the scientists said they “are deeply concerned” about the failure to include rainwater storage and management in the proposed SDGs. Without it, they said, the goals related to poverty, hunger and freshwater cannot be met.
“Our concern arises from the failure to recognize the ominous congruence between, on the one hand, poverty, malnutrition, rapid population growth and economic reliance on agriculture, and the water challenges and predicament in semiarid tropical and subtropical climates on the other. These drylands are the most water vulnerable inhabited regions of the world, hosting the world’s poorest countries,” the declaration said.
The scientists pointed out that drylands cover some 41 percent of land surface worldwide, maintain 44 percent of cultivated systems and are home to 2.1 billion people. Some are in countries that have the world’s highest population growth rates.
When it rains in these areas, it is often in sudden, large quantities that cause flash floods, making traditional irrigated agriculture difficult. However, if the rainwater is properly managed, it could “drastically improve food production,” the scientists said.
In addition, they noted that climate change will make rainfall even more variable over the next few decades.
“Setting out to eradicate global poverty and hunger without addressing the productivity of rain is a serious and unacceptable omission. The proposed SDGs cannot be achieved without a strong focus on sustainable management of rainwater for resilient food production in tropical and subtropical drylands,” they said .
Rainwater storage, efficient supplementary irrigation and integrated water, land and crop management can all provide significant gains and intensify livelihood improvements, community development and food security, they added.
The declaration was signed by Malin Falkenmark of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI); Johan Rockstrom, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Center; Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of SIWI; Mohamed Ait Kadi, Chair of the Global Water Partnership; Tony Allan of King’s College, the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate; Naty Barak, Chief Sustainability Officer at Israeli irrigation firm Netafim, Stockholm Industry Water Award winner of 2013; Jeremy Bird, Director General of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI); Fred Boltz, Managing Director for Ecosystems at the Rockefeller Foundation; Peter Gleick, President and co-founder of the Pacific Institute; David Grey of the University of Oxford; Jerson Kelman of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; Roberto Lenton of the University of Nebraska; Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); and Lisa Sennerby Forsse of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).
World Water Week, organized by SIWI, runs this year from August 31-September 5th.