Water is being overlooked in climate planning and funding, experts have said, despite half the world’s population facing acute water stress by 2030.
At the UN Water Conference in New York, the first since 1977, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “vampiric overuse” and pollution are draining the “precious lifeblood” while climate change is “wreaking havoc” on the natural water cycle. Scientists believe there needs to be a much stronger focus on water as a climate issue, which they said has been missing even from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports – considered to be the most definitive scientific assessments of climate risks. Dr Rajendra Singh, known as the waterman of India for his part in reviving an ecosystem in the desert state of Rajasthan by creating thousands of rainwater ponds, believes water conservation is unpopular because it is not lucrative.
He told Watershed: “No one is interested in water conservation, in agro-ecological climate diversity, in efficient use of water, because there is not a lot of money in it.”
If there is no moisture in the soil, there’s no greenery and if there is no greenery, there’s carbon in the atmosphere. Worldwide, almost three-quarters of all disasters in the last 20 years have been water-related, according to the UN, with floods and droughts affecting over three billion people, killing more than 166,000 and costing 700 billion dollars (£573 billion). In the UK privatising of water has shown what happens when corporations take over water. In the 30 years since England’s water was privatised by Margaret Thatcher, water companies have set up a system in which billions of pounds leave the network in an average year. It’s money that could have gone towards building a more resilient water system, say academics. Among them, Dieter Helm, an Oxford professor of economic policy specialising in utilities, went as far as saying in 2021 that England’s water system was “a scandal of financial engineering”. Raw sewerage being pumped into rivers when owners are paying themselves big bonuses. Once again bring money into the equation and the populations dependent on it suffer.

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