Water resources are important to both society and ecosystems. And the access to safe drinking water plus adequate sanitation services is vital to every human being. We all depend on a reliable, clean supply of drinking water to sustain our health. We need water for agriculture, energy production, navigation, manufacturing, etc. However, today 650 million people equivalent to 10% of the world’s population do not have access to safe water, putting them at risk of infectious diseases and premature death.

A pastoralist collects drinking water from a contaminated water source in the northern part of Tanzania. He is one of the 650 millions of people without access to safe water.

A pastoralist collects drinking water from a contaminated water source in the northern part of Tanzania. He is one of the 650 millions of people without access to safe water.

Pressure on water resources has been growing over the decades due to population growth, increased and yet sophisticated multiple human activities that use more and more water quantities. This pressure is likely to be exacerbated by climate change. Many countries of the globe, particularly on the African continent currently face water supply and water quality issues. The amount of water available is limited, its quality questionable and the demand continues to rise annually as population grows.

As the latest IPCC report has pointed out, a climate-related warming of lakes and rivers has been observed over recent decades causing freshwater ecosystems to change in species composition, organism abundance and productivity. Also due to warming, many lakes have exhibited prolonged stratification with decreases in surface layer nutrient concentration, and prolonged depletion of oxygen in deeper layers. Droughts have become more common, especially in the tropics and sub-tropics, since the 1970s causing some lakes levels in Chad, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi to decline.

Water quality is also at risk in areas where above average rainfall has occurred. For example, countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia in the Eastern Africa region that have been experiencing heavy precipitation due to El Niño have also faced problems of the water infrastructure, as sewer systems and water treatment plants have become overwhelmed by the increased volumes of water. The direct consequences of these heavy downpours are among others an increased amount of runoff into rivers and lakes, washing sediments, animal, waste and other pollutants into water supplies and making them unusable, unsafe, or in need of water treatment.

As we celebrate water day today, it is an important opportunity to call on parties that have invested and still investing in the fossil fuel industry to stop their disastrous adventures.  Such choices are worsening a situation which is already complicated for millions of people. The increased quantity of water used in that industry should rather be channeled to satisfy one of the very basic needs of human being. Today and together we say: Water for people first!

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