Water is essential for life – and scarcity of freshwater resources, exacerbated by climate change, can trigger serious consequences, including economic hardship, conflict and displacement.
Water is essential for life – and scarcity of freshwater resources, exacerbated by climate change, can trigger serious consequences, including economic hardship, conflict and displacement. Projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate that five billion of the world’s 7.6 billion inhabitants live in areas where water security is at risk.
The global water crisis requires a “portfolio approach and extensive collaborations,” proposes Jay Famiglietti, Canada 150 Research Chair in Hydrology and Remote Sensing and executive director of the Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). “We are not going to make much progress if we try to tackle this alone. It has to be a team effort.”
Dr. Famiglietti is one of the authors of a recent study, which used data from satellites, including NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, and other sources, and determined that freshwater availability changed dramatically between 2002 to 2016. He says, “Mid-latitude areas of the world are getting drier, while the bordering tropical and high latitude areas are getting wetter.”
The study identified a number of global hotspots, the majority of which are losing water rapidly because of excessive groundwater pumping or the melting of ice sheets or glaciers. While challenges of such magnitude can lead to “feeling overwhelmed by the scope of the global water crisis,” he believes two things can be done. “We can look at the hotspots around the world and work to bring together various stakeholders to address them. We can also think about what new institutions we might form to drive better global co-ordination.”
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Image via University of Saskatchewan.