OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest columns written by participants in different parts of the international water community.
The global discourse on water pivots around the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are set to expire by 2030. Several factors impact the availability of water and therefore it becomes imperative to understand the dynamics influencing availability, governance and cooperation in the water sector with a futuristic vision. The bulletin identifies key parameters such as population growth, climate change, urbanization and agricultural technologies and elaborates on the impact that such parameters will have on the availability of water from 2030 to 2050.
The purpose of mapping long term trends with regards to these parameters is to alert policy communities of the likely scenarios beyond the horizon which they need to bear in mind in the course of prospective planning. Once such long-term trends are understood, it is then possible to identify the requirements of resources, demand and supply management, and compromises required for cooperation. Such mapping is only the first step and the limited objective of this bulletin. It can provide a foundation for a substantive discourse on water governance and development options from 2030 to 2050.
The Bulletin (linked here, in full) throws up a couple of key findings on the indivisible link which water shares with drivers such as population growth, climate change, urbanization and agricultural technologies. With the demographic changes that will raise the population to around 9.8 billion by 2050 out of which two thirds will live in urban areas, the stress on water resources will be phenomenal. Consequently, the global food production will need to increase by 50 per cent to feed such a population will necessitate a subsequent increase in water withdrawals for irrigation and energy sectors. This will lead to a competition in water withdrawals for different uses such as industry and manufacturing and such withdrawals will contribute to significant water shortages compelling people to migrate to areas of water availability. However, the year 2050 is predicted to have more than 50 per cent people living in areas of high water stress and water scarcity.
This, coupled with climate change effects such as rising sea levels and inundation will cause further loss of land which can also translate into political instability. The bulletin also acknowledges women as being key stakeholders in water management and conservation across different sectors such as agriculture, rainwater harvesting and watershed management to name a few. Investing in the infrastructure needed to provide adequate water and sanitation facilities can sharply reduce health costs and loss of labour as a result of illness amongst women. It can also allow women to pursue productive activities by reducing the burden of collecting water for cooking, laundry and other household uses. Harnessing new technologies will reduce inputs such as land and water, increase yields and significantly cut costs. It can achieve the dual objective of water management as well as feeding the rising population. We have given a few examples of new technologies in this bulletin, but scientists and entrepreneurs are always trying to invent new products and processes. The synergies between the various drivers and its resultant impact on water resources highlights the necessity for a future oriented outlook a coordinated and cohesive approach by all relevant stakeholders concerned with water management.