As World Water Day approaches, water scarcity in many parts of the world remains a major problem, aggravated by climate change and increasing consumption, especially in agriculture. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that 60% of the world’s population could be facing water problems by 2050, with low-income families being the most affected. The economic impact in some areas could be significant, with water scarcity potentially costing up to 6% of GDP.
Access to drinking water and sanitation is a major block to development, with over two billion people currently lacking these basic resources. However, investing in water infrastructure could lead to significant economic benefits. Universal access to basic water and sanitation would free up resources for education and work, improving health and reducing costs. Water.org estimates that it would bring more than €17 billion in economic benefits from reduced deaths alone. Investment in water and sanitation provides an economic return of four dollars for each dollar invested, thanks to reduced health costs, increased productivity, and lower mortality rates.
Despite its importance, water scarcity often lags behind as a political issue. Loic Fauchon, President of the World Water Council, stresses the need for water to have a higher political profile, urging political leaders to stop ignoring water and prioritizing it over guns.
In Qatar, where water scarcity is an acute and long-standing problem, public-private partnerships are driving innovation and sustainable solutions. Spanish water management company, Aguas de Valencia, is partnering with the Qatari government to manage the country’s largest water treatment plant, using state-of-the-art technologies to transform wastewater into non-potable water for agriculture and other uses. Recycling water will become increasingly important as climate change makes weather patterns less reliable. Qatar’s approach could offer a model for other countries in arid regions facing similar challenges.
As water scarcity continues to threaten economic growth and development across the world, there is an urgent need for political leaders to prioritize access to water and sanitation as a basic human right and place it at the forefront of their agendas.