AFD discusses the effects of climate change on access to water


The interaction between global warming and the water cycle is difficult to measure due to the impact of human activity and the inertia of water masses (Ocean and groundwater) that inscribes the effects of warming in the long term. Some effects are already observed in the different regions of the world and the scientific community provides for others with an acceptable degree of certainty.

On this particular point, the head of the water and sanitation Division of the French Development Agency (AFD), Céline Gilquin explained, in an interview given to, how this resource is a marker of inequalities that will become an issue major of the coming years on the occasion of the world water day celebrated on 22 March 2019 on the theme is: "leave no one behind." In this interview, Ms. Gilquin is making a statement of the world's water resources while listing a few evils including drought, pollution and health hazards, three issues that she says will be used to decipher environmental issues.

What are the risks of people who do not have access to quality water?

In 2015, the United Nations set the target for 2030 for the access of all and all to a safe and managed water and sanitation service. For the drinking water component, it is a home service, continuous and quality. But according to who 2.1 billion people do not have this level of service today. Among these 30% of the population, disparities are very strong, sometimes between neighbourhoods in the same city. As for the issue of sanitation, including, for example, home toilets, or wastewater management, it is 4.5 billion of people who do not have a secure service.

On a global scale, access to water is progressing. But the goals have not been achieved in some countries of the South. Sometimes we talk about "water stress", in other cases of "shortage", as in Jordan where there is really a lack of water: 135 m3 per capita and per year against 2 500 m3 in France. It is necessary to preserve the local resource and manage it well: improve the management of existing networks, reduce leaks, do not polluze, sanitize, treat and reuse wastewater, raise awareness among households…

Access to water is a major issue in terms of health, dignity and the fight against inequality. The consumption of quality water combined with local hygiene also makes it possible to significantly improve the risks associated with hydric diseases, such as diarrhoea or cholera, which are the second leading cause of infant mortality. As soon as there is a discontinuity of service, there is a resurgence of cholera epidemics for example.

What are the threats to the water resource?

Population growth is important and will continue, especially in urban areas in the southern countries. So the demand for water will grow. In parallel, the standard of living increases: we consume more, more industrial products, more meat… The biggest consumer of water is agriculture, which accounts for 70% of the harvest.

Moreover, the effects of climate change are considerable and create very important tensions: increased droughts, eutrophication, salinization with the rise of sea waters, violent rainy events… all of this has an impact. Pollution is also a real subject: 80% of the world's wastewater is discarded without treatment! Water purification is therefore a priority.

How to avoid "water conflicts"?

There will be tensions on this resource in places. Sometimes in the national perimeter, between users: between farmers and consumers, for example. It is therefore necessary to work upstream to a good distribution between the different uses. In other cases, the resource is divided into several countries, such as the Senegal River or the Niger River. It is then important to organise upstream a good knowledge of the resource and then to plan what needs to be spent on irrigation, hydroelectric production, drinking water… Countries must agree on water management guidelines to avoid conflicts.

I often emphasize the importance of the issue of governance: in Jordan there is very little water but access is good, whereas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo there is a lot of water but one in two people do not have access to the resource.


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