The Quest for Water

No. 1 Vol. LV 2018

“The Quest for Water” focuses on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water for all. The articles explore important issues such as ecosystems in the global water cycle and the role of gender and social inclusion in achieving the water-related goals and targets. This issue of the digital magazine of the UN system “buoys” the launch of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028. ©Front cover by Bob Sherman Photography.

António Guterres

Remarks at the Launch of the International Decade for Action, Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028

With demand for freshwater projected to grow by more than 40 per cent by the middle of the century, and with climate change having a growing impact, water scarcity is an enormous concern. By 2050 at least one in four people will live in a country where the lack of fresh water will be chronic or recurrent. Without effective management of our water resources, we risk intensified disputes between communities and sectors and even increased tensions among nations.

Ramu Damodaran


People are saying that the next war will be about water, President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajčák said at a gathering of students at Seton Hall University, a member of the United Nations Academic Impact, a few months ago. Let's make sure there will be no next war and let's make sure that we treat water the way it deserves.

The President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Miroslav Lajčák, briefed the press on his priorities for the Assembly's seventy-second session, on 10 October 2017 at the United Nations Office at Geneva. ©UNIS/GENEVA 
Miroslav Lajčák

Achieving Universal Access to Water and Sanitation

At a most basic level, human beings cannot survive without water. Equally important is sanitation, a lack of which negatively affects our quality of life and claims the lives of millions each year.

Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan at the Nurek Dam and hydroelectric station. © President of Tajikistan Office's archive. 
Emomali Rahmon

Water for Sustainable Development

Water plays a crucial role in the development of mankind. From time immemorial people have settled near water, which has always been a source of life and well-being. Humanity has praised and glorified it as a sacred resource for thousands of years.

Oyun Sanjaasuren

Strengthening and Revitalizing Global Partnerships to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6

Shifting our priorities from economic growth to sustainable development is the political imperative of our time. To do so, leaders must deliver on water security, ensuring that water becomes an enabler, rather than a major barrier to sustainable growth. What is it going to take?

Asma Bachikh

Youth and the Integrated Management of Water Resources

In the international water community, bottom-up youth engagement comes through a variety of civil society networks. While many youth initiatives may exist around the world, structured and meaningful involvement of youth is generally hampered due to various reasons that range from the lack of widespread support to the absence of proper platforms that sustain youth participation.

Gilbert F. Houngbo

The Role of UN-Water as an Inter-Agency Coordination Mechanism for Water and Sanitation

By 2050, the world’s population will have grown by around 2 billion people and demand for water will increase up to 30 per cent. Water is finite, so we must ask: how are we going to balance all of the competing demands on water resources while meeting our obligations to fulfil every person’s human right to water and sanitation?

Flavia Schlegel

Building the Scientific Knowledge Base to Support Countries to Better Manage Their Water Resources

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been working towards this end for more than 40 years through its Division of Water Sciences, and, more precisely, the Member States of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the only intergovernmental programme of the United Nations system devoted to water research, and water resources management, education and capacity-building.

A floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia. Over 1 million people live in the greater Tonle Sap area, making their living primarily from the lake fisheries. © Vladimir Smakhtin
Vladimir Smakhtin

Ecosystems in the Global Water Cycle

There are a number of challenges to large-scale implementation of ecosystem-centric approaches in water management. They include, among others, an overwhelming dominance of grey infrastructure solutions in the current instruments of many States, lack of quantitative evidence on how ecosystem-focused approaches perform, and a lack of capacity to implement such approaches.

Floating house after 2011 Japanese earthquake, Sendai, Japan. March 2011. © Wikimedia Commons
Han Seung-soo

Addressing Water, Sanitation and Disasters in the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals

The issue of water, sanitation and disasters must be urgently addressed if we hope to make sustainable development a reality. Damages attributed to water-related disasters account for up to 15 to 40 per cent of annual gross domestic product for certain countries.

cewas start-up entrepreneurs discussing water and sanitation challenges, Ramallah. November 2016. © Lillian Volat
Lillian Volat

cewas Middle East: Supporting Entrepreneurs to Address Water, Sanitation and Resource Management Challenges

cewas is the world's first and only dedicated water and sanitation start-up incubator and business innovation training programme. Since its inception, cewas has created more than 40 international water and sanitation start-ups, and executed over 20 water entrepreneurship training programmes on four continents.

Women collecting water in a village of West Bengal, India. © Das Kumar Prasanta
Benedito Braga

Water Is a Prerequisite for All Development

The World Water Council (WWC) considers the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be an endeavour of the highest importance for the achievement of water security throughout the world, which is crucial for a prosperous and equitable future for humankind.

Collecting rainwater data on the farm. Tana River watershed, Kenya. 30 November 2016. © CIAT/ Georgina Smith
Claudia Sadoff

Coming to Grips with Water Security in the Face of Climate Change

In a landmark study published a decade ago, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) suggested that under likely scenarios the world's freshwater supplies should be adequate to meet future demands from agriculture, industry and other sectors.

Once upon a time. Traditional water harvesting has been used for ages to collect runoff water and recharge ground water. Daryapur Block, Amravati district, Maharashtra. ©Vijay Kutty
Meena Narula

The Dynamic Role of Gender and Social Inclusion: Achieving Internationally Agreed Water-Related Goals

It is estimated that over the next 10 years, climate change and resulting weather extremes will affect around 175 million children a year. We need to increase equitable access to sustainable water sources and improved sanitation, so that in times of both stability and crisis, every child is given a chance to survive.

Acadia National Park, United States of America. 2017. © Russell Taylor
Arjen Y. Hoekstra

How to Reduce Our Water Footprint to a Sustainable Level?

Overconsumption of water is widespread. Rivers such as the Yellow River in China and the Colorado River in the United States do not even meet the ocean anymore. Along their way, the water from these rivers is withdrawn to supply farmers, industries and households.