Responding to the urban water challenge

World Water Day 2011

“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. Without water there is no dignity and no escape from poverty,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in his message on World Water Day. 

Over 850 events were arranged worldwide yesterday in celebration of World Water Day. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), as part of UN-Water, participated in the three-day main event in Cape Town, South Africa, coordinated by UN-Habitat on behalf of the United Nations system. The event included a three-day conference and exhibition.

World Water Day aims to promote and raise awareness of ways to respond to the challenge of maintaining and improving water services in the context of rapid urbanization. This year’s theme was “Water for cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge,” intended to attract international attention to the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.

Access to water is vital to the location and growth of cities, but more importantly to the survival of their citizens. Currently one in four city residents worldwide, 794 million, live without access to improved sanitation facilities. Every second, the urban population grows by two people.

By the next generation, approximately 60 per cent of the global population will be living in towns and cities. The growing population, in addition to the limited water supply, has become an increasing constraint to urban development.

At a panel discussion on “Water for energy, energy for water,” hosted by the Permanent Missions of the “Green Group” countries at UN Headquarters in New York, panellists spoke about the interdependence of energy and water. Brice Lalonde, one of the Executive Coordinators for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, addressed the importance of good practices and problems related to water that need to be resolved.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon concluded his message urging governments “to recognize the urban water crisis for what it is – a crisis of governance, weak policies and poor management, rather than one of scarcity”. He further stated “let us reaffirm our commitment to ending the plight of the more than 800 million people who, in a world of plenty, still do not have the safe drinking water or sanitation they need for a life in dignity and good health.”

Bookmark and Share