Less than a decade from now, every one in four people on Earth might be suffering from extreme water scarcity, UN statistics claim. Also, two thirds of the global population will be living in water-stressed conditions.
How much water do you consume every day? According to the UK Environment Agency, the average British consumes between 162 and 182 liters of water every day – half of it being spent in the bathroom. But while the same is likely true for most of the developed world, many people in the developing world can’t afford that luxury. More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and a third of today’s population suffers from water scarcity at least one month a year. According to the United Nations, that figure will only get worse.
A growing concern relates to forests. Three-fourths of the fresh water that people use every day comes from forested catchment areas, and more than 1.6 billion people live on the forests for food, water, medicines and fuel. Forests also influence how and where rain falls, and can filter and clean the water. They play a key role for global water security and yet they are under threat.
“The protection and restoration of forest watersheds and catchments is not just climate-smart; it is a cost-effective and green alternative to new infrastructure development for water purification,” said Manoel Sobral Filho, director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat. “Forests are the planet’s natural water towers,” he added.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on governments, businesses as well as civil society to adopt holistic policies and practices to protect, restore and sustain healthy forests based on sustainable plans.
“The world’s forests are essential to realizing our shared vision for people and the planet,” said Ban in his message on the day. “They are central to our future prosperity and the stability of the global climate.”
Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres (890,000 square miles) of forests around the world were cut down and while the rate of deforestation has dropped slightly, it’s not dropping nearly fast enough. Every year, 7 million hectares of natural forests are lost and 50 million hectares of forest land are burned. If current trends continue, the removed forest areas will start to take their toll on water supplies. According to the UN statistics, 1.8 people will be suffering from water scarcity in less than a decade. While the figures come with a degree of uncertainty, with overpopulation, global warming it’s becoming more and more clear that we will be dealing with a water crisis in the near future.