A person stands next to a water tank with a low water level and dry grass at Walthamstow Wetlands in London in August. File photo by Tolga Akmen/EPA-EFE
Nov. 29 (UPI) — More than 3.6 million people do not have access to an adequate water supply and large areas of the world are drying up, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization.
The WMO State of Global Water Resources report shares a bleak outlook for Earth’s water supply with many places in drier than normal conditions in 2021. It provides a look at river flow, flood events and droughts around the world.
The report says rainfall patterns have been affected by climate change and a La Niña event.
“The effects of climate change are often felt through water – more intense and frequent droughts, more extreme floods, more erratic seasonal rainfall and accelerated melting of glaciers – with cascading effects on economies, ecosystems and all aspects of our daily lives” , the Secretary General of the WMO, Petteri Taalas, declared.
“And yet, there is insufficient understanding of changes in the distribution, quantity and quality of freshwater resources.”
The area of the Earth with below-average flow was twice the area of above-average compared to the 30-year average.
Particularly dry regions included the Rio de la Plata in South America and the Colorado, Missouri, and Mississippi river basins in North America. Rio de la Plata has had a drought since 2019.
Ground water storage, or water naturally stored in canopies, snow, ice, water bodies and subsurface water, was below average compared to the 2002-2020 period.
The western United States, central South America, Patagonia, North Africa and Madagascar, Central Asia and the Middle East, Pakistan and northern India had low water supplies.
“Overall, the negative trends are stronger than the positive,” the report said.
Water resources also have an effect on the global food supply, especially the cryosphere. This includes glaciers, mountains and permafrost that form the largest natural reservoir of water in the world. WMO plans to assess the cryosphere in future reports.
UN-Water reported that 74% of all natural disasters were water-related.
On 14 November, the WMO introduced the new Action on Water Adaptation and Resilience initiative in the UN climate change negotiations to highlight the importance of water as “a key climate change issue and a potential solution”. The initiative was developed at COP27 in Egypt.
The initiative presents actions to reduce water loss, improve water supply and create sustainability plans.