Water scarcity is threatening the viability of societies, economies and ecosystems across large areas of the planet. More than 50 per cent of the world’s cities and 75 per cent of all irrigated farms are experiencing water shortages on a recurring basis, jeopardising future global food supplies, economic growth, environmental sustainability, and the viability of human settlements.
Australia is very familiar with the impacts of water scarcity and drought, which, globally, are now high on the agenda of many government and business leaders. The Water Scarcity and Drought Summit, convened by the Australian Water Partnership and International Water Association in October 2016, brought together leading policy makers, practitioners and opinion leaders from around the world to discuss ways to build resilience to water scarcity and drought.
As population grows, urbanisation continues, food demands go up and climate change intensifies, we must learn to do more and better with less. We must learn to invest efficiently, optimise across competing demands, and reallocate available supplies to meet basic human needs and support economic development. The costs of inaction will be revealed through reductions in human well-being and loss of life, stunted economies and decimated water-dependent ecosystems.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, significant benefits stand to be gained. There is a clear opportunity to increase the total value of water, in economic, human and environmental terms. For over half of the world’s population, predicted large negative effects of water scarcity on economic growth could be entirely reversed with improved water policy. In some countries, the net effect could be equivalent to more than a ten per cent boost in GDP growth over the next thirty years (World Bank, 2016). The benefits of improved water resource management will be increased resilience, economic prosperity and quality of life.
WaterGuide is an organising framework for improving water resource management and use in response to scarcity. It is intended to be used primarily by national or local governments in countries where water scarcity is a present or future threat to human health and wellbeing, economic development and/or environmental sustainability.