The United Nations World Water Development Report, released every year with a focus on different strategic water issues each year, is the UN’s flagship report on water. It is a comprehensive review that gives an overall picture of the state of the world's freshwater resources and aims to provide decision-makers with the tools to implement sustainable use of our water.
The news media are full of talk of crises – in climate change, energy and food and troubled financial markets. These crises are linked to each other and to water resources management. Unresolved, they may lead to increasing political insecurity and conflict.
Water is required to meet our fundamental needs and rising living standards and to sustain our planet’s fragile ecosystems. Pressures on the resource come from a growing and mobile population, social and cultural change, economic development and technological change. Adding complexity and risk is climate change, with impacts on the resource as well as on the sources of pressure on water.
The challenges, though substantial, are not insurmountable. The Report shows how some countries have responded. Progress in providing drinking water is heartening, with the Millennium Development Goal target on track in most regions. But other areas remain unaddressed, and after decades of inaction, the problems in water systems are enormous and will worsen if left unattended.
Leaders in the water sector can inform decisions outside their domain and manage water resources to achieve agreed socioeconomic objectives and environmental integrity. Leaders in government, the private sector and civil society determine these objectives and allocate human and financial resources to meet them. Recognizing this responsibility, they must act now!