Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.
World Water Day is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. They use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
As Cape Town inches towards ‘Zero Hour’ set for July 15, 2018, the real threat of water scarcity is finally hitting millions of people worldwide. For on that day, the South African city’s 3.78 million citizens — rich and poor, young and old, men and women — will be forced to queue up with their jerry cans at public outlets for their quota of 25 litres of water per day.
The issue of water scarcity was first raised in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Since then, each year, March 22 is observed across the world to shine the spotlight on different water-related issues. The theme for World Water Day this year is — ‘Nature for Water’ — exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all) target for water and sanitation is among those on which many countries lag the most.
In Kenya, more than half of the population only have access to unsafe drinking water from ponds, shallow wells and rivers. The lack of clean water, caused largely by prolonged drought, is causing conflict between farming communities. This is the situation in many parts of the world including Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) member States.
Prof. John B.K. Kiema. Director, Technical Services Directorate at RCMRD says access to water and sanitation are basic human rights and are critical sustainable development challenges.
Speaking during the official opening of the training on flash Flood Forecasting (EF5), Prof. Kiema, said challenges will only worsen and the impacts on people will only increase as competing demands for clean fresh water (agriculture, households, energy generation, industrial use, ecosystems) are exacerbated by the effects of climate change putting more pressure on water quality and availability.
“As the world charts a more sustainable future, the crucial interplay among water, food and energy is one of the most formidable challenges we face.” He added that without water there is no dignity and no escape from poverty. Prof. Kiema however said all is not lost and acknowledged the role of SERVIR, a joint development initiative of NASA and USAID, working in partnership with leading regional organizations around the globe, to help developing countries use information provided by Earth observing satellites and geospatial technologies to address Food Security, Water and Disasters, Weather and Climate, and Land Use/Land Cover Change.
An ominous cocktail of deficient rainfall, devastating droughts and poor planning, say conservationists, have made Cape Town the first major city to run out of fresh water.
Faith Mitheu the water resources and hydroclimatic disasters thematic service area Lead at RCMRD and SERVIR Eastern and Southern Africa said the service area includes water quantity (including groundwater), sediment transport, and water quality.
She noted that SERVIR-E&SA aims to address improved estimation and predictability of water resources for integrated water management in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region. Key topics include water quantity, including estimations for water allocation; the food-water-energy nexus; and disaster investigations including floods, droughts, and rainfall-induced landslides.
She said the hub hosted at RCMRD co-develops tools that empower decision makers to make informed decisions to create and/or implement adaptation strategies citing the ongoing training in Uganda and recently in Kenya where various water related bodies were trained on application of Ensemble Framework for Flash Flood Forecasting (EF5).
The training was building on a previous training held in February 2017 on the understanding of the EF5 framework for flood monitoring. SERVIR Eastern and Southern Africa (SERVIR-E&SA& in collaboration with the Applied Science Team (AST) from the University of Oklahoma, held the two days stakeholders training aimed at solving flash floods.
She said accuracy flood level scenario maps lead to preventive and flood protection forecasts undertaken by the Kenya Meteorological Services in Kenya. Loosely coupled hydrology model (CREST) with an online GIS inundation tool.
According to Dr. Race Clark from the University of Oklahoma, “World Water Day is a great time to stop and think about how critical of a resource water is to us all. Watercovers most of our home - planet earth - and makes up most of our bodies. We all need water, but too often we have too much or too little of it, or it is of poor quality.
He added that, “In a changing climate and with increasing populations, most scientists believe that water scarcity will become even more of a pressing issue than it is today. I am honored to be working with RCMRD on this World Water Day as we work to improve our understanding of water and water-related disasters.”
Laura Labriola, also from the University of Oklahoma, added that World Water day comes at an important time, especially in Nairobi because of the rainy season and the recent flooding. “By working with RCMRD, we hope to forecast these flood events and implement a warning system to alert people affected by them.”
Celebrating World Water Day means that we need to conserve and reduce our water use as excessive water use will generate more wastewater which is also to be collected, transported, treated and disposed. Saving water is easy for everyone to do. Let us try to implement the following basic water conservation tips: Turn off the water tap while tooth brushing, shaving and face washing; Clean vegetables, fruits, dishes and utensils with minimum water. Don’t let the water run while rinsing. Run washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full. Using water-efficient showerheads and taking shorter showers. Learning to turn off faucets tightly after each use and repair and fix any water leaks.