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The U.N. has sounded the alarm on a growing water crisis that needs to be “treated as a common good, not a commodity,” as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the organization’s water conference Wednesday.
“We are draining humanity’s lifeblood through vampiric over-consumption and unsustainable use, and evaporating it through global heating,” Guterres said at the conference in New York, which is hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan. “We’ve broken the water cycle, destroyed ecosystems and contaminated groundwater.”
“Governments must develop and implement plans that ensure equitable water access for all people while conserving this precious resource,” Guterres stressed in his speech in which he also emphasized the need to tackle the climate crisis in order to help manage the water crisis.
The U.N. will reiterate the need to follow 2020’s SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework, which aims to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030.
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The conference follows a report released by the U.N. that declared, “Water starts wars, puts out fires and is key to human survival,” but there remains “an urgent need to establish strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control.”
A contractor working for the city of Jackson, Mississippi, watches as water from a damaged main runs along McLaurin Road on Dec. 29, 2022. ( Joshua Lott/The Washingon Post via Getty Images)
Richard Connor, lead author on the report, insisted “there definitely will be a global crisis” if the situation remains unaddressed. He highlighted that 70% of the world’s water supply goes to urban and industrial growth and agricultural needs.
Activists protest the dumping of raw sewage in waterways, at Parliament Square on March 13, 2023, in London. (Martin Pope/Getty Images)
The report claimed that two billion people do not have safe drinking water and 3.6 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation; the global urban population facing water scarcity is set to potentially double by 2050, with as many as 2.4 billion people struggling with the crisis by then.
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Connor stressed that he did not see an overwhelming concern for possible “water wars” as he believed the scarcity of such a vital resource “tends to lead to peace and cooperation rather than to conflict.”
A worker from the state drinking water company refills containers installed by the Public Health Ministry due to a cholera outbreak in Santo Domingo, on Feb. 9, 2023. (Erika Santelices/afp/AFP via Getty Images)
A panel of 18 U.N. independent experts and special rapporteurs on Tuesday said one of the most significant issues involved the world treating water as a commodity, leading to a “technocratic approach to water.”
A group of women with their children wash clothes in a river that is contaminated in Lilongwe, Malawi, on Feb. 20, 2023. (Fredrik Lerneryd/AFP via Getty Images)
The group argued that continuing to treat water as a commodity will “derail the achievement of the SDGs and hamper efforts to solve the global water crisis.”
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Guterres stressed the need for cooperation to tackle the problem, including a joint effort to “manage water.”
“One of my proudest achievements as prime minister of Portugal was signing the Albufeira Convention on water management with Spain 25 years ago. The convention is still in force today,” Guterres said.
Polluted water near a market in Abobo, a suburb of Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast, on March 17, 2023. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images)
“We see similar initiatives in Bolivia and Peru and elsewhere, and I urge all member states to join and implement the U.N. Water Convention,” he added.
A sign warns residents to filter their water on Jan. 17, 2016, in Flint, Michigan. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Management of water resources will require “new governance models, new finance models” and new models for using and reusing water, U.N. Under Secretary-General Usha Rao Monari, who is the official host of the U.N. Water Conference, told the BBC.
“There is enough water on the planet if we manage it more effectively than we have managed it over the last few decades,” she said.
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The water convention requires involved parties to share water resources where possible, especially when bordering on shared water resources. Originally developed for European use, the U.N. pushed the measure out to all member states across the world, with several African nations adopting it over the past five years.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.