Water: Leave No One Behind

By Dawn McGregor 22 March, 2019

Happy World Water Day! This year we question why we still don't have 'water for all' - it's time to get our act together

2.1 billion people - around 30% of the global population - still live without safe water yet the cost of achieving universal access to water is only US150bn per year, around 0.8% of the US' GDP in 2017
2030 is a key deadline, not just for the SDGs but for climate change, which exacerbates water scarcity; Asia's limited water resource availability especially dictates a business unusual future
Clean access to water may not be a “poor” or “rural” problem anymore - even we in cities, could be left behind & we need to build resilient infrastructures to deliver clean water for all in a 3°C world

The theme this World Water Day is “Leaving no one behind”.  Yet, 2.1 billion people – around 30% of the global population – still live without safe water (‘safely managed drinking water service’: water that is accessible on the premises, available when needed, and free from contamination).

USD120bn of green bonds were certified in 2017…

…with such funds being raised, why haven’t we solved universal access to water?

The cost of delivering universal clean water… USD150 billion per year. This sounds like a lot but it is only 0.8% of the US’ GDP in 2017 and 1.2% of China’s. Another way to look at it is that USD120.2 billion of green bonds were certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative in 2017 and the USD100 billion issuance mark was passed in September in 2018. With such funds being raised, why haven’t we solved universal access to water?

By not achieving this, we are jeopardising our ability to accomplish Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. And more broadly, global economic growth, security and health.

2030 is a key deadline, not just for the SDGs but for climate change

2030 is a key deadline, not just for the SDGs but for climate change, which we know exacerbates water scarcity. According to the “2018 Emissions Gap Report”, CO2 emissions are now rising after a four year plateau. It warns that if we don’t close the emissions gap by 2030 it is “very plausible” that the goal of well-below 2°C will not be reached. The time for bold & out-of-the box thinking is now. And it’s not just up to the big carbon producing guys like energy & food to transform and put us on the right trajectory. Fashion matters for the climate with huge forecasted CO2 emissions, people matter to through changing their diets & lifestyles. We are all in it so, it is time we all act.

Asia Pacific is falling behind on two thirds of SDG targets. SDG 6 is one of the least progressed goals

This is even more the case in Asia where limited water resource availability simply dictates a business unusual future. Moreover, a UN report says that Asia Pacific is falling behind on two thirds of SDG targets. SDG 6 is one of the least progressed goals. We are clearly behind.

We need to do better. As it is, water refugees are already on the rise, as is water-related conflict. 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030. And by 2100, climate change will force mass global migration of over 1 billion people, with the Asia-Pacific region identified as the most vulnerable.

We have clear evidence of how water is already disrupting lives, business and countries around the world. Of course, everyone knows about “Day Zero” in South Africa. Then there are the droughts & floods that have destabilised Kenya; from having to walk long distances for water to then floods that displace hundreds of thousands of people. Meanwhile, in Eastern Ukraine civilian water infrastructure has been a target during the country’s ongoing conflict and most recently in the news, Manila’s water supply crisis.

Manila Water had a 140 million litres shortage daily, which has led to dozens of villages and city districts having their water cut off for days. To blame, apparently infrastructure delays, rising demand and the onset of summer shrinking supply from dams. Residents, business, hospitals have all been impacted. The shortage is said to be resolved in June, some two plus months from now.

It isn’t just developing countries that are going to suffer from water disruptions…

…England could “run short on water” in 25 years

It isn’t just developing or conflict countries that are going to suffer from water disruptions. Around 4 billion people globally experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year. Tokyo now experiences a dry spell nearly every decade, which is spurring water worries. And in London, the city’s water demand is expected to exceed its supply within the next decade while the whole of England could “run short on water” in 25 years.

In short, water refugees are going to become more common unless we get our act together. Clean access to water may not be a “poor” or “rural” problem anymore. Even we, living in cities, could be left behind. We need to build resilient infrastructures to deliver clean water for all in a 3 degree world. And by “we” we mean everyone – governments, business, investors, think tanks, academics, NGOs, the military, average joe, golf clubs… simply everyone.


Further Reading

  • Time To Get Radical – Alarm bells are ringing for climate change but we are still wedded to the ‘norm’ and on track to miss even the 2°C target. With time running out and serious implications for Asia’s water resources, China Water Risk’s Debra Tan calls for more flashes of brilliance
  • YouTube: The Dark Side Of Going Viral – We are already addicted to the internet, YouTube, Netflix, apps and still forecasts show major growth. China Water Risk’s Woody Chan unwraps the darkside of our runaway data use
  • Fashion Has The Power To Shape A 2℃ World – If fashion were a country it would have the fourth highest carbon emissions behind the US, China, & India. China Water Risk’s Dawn McGregor & Debra Tan question why the industry is not under the spotlight like coal and call for faster disruptions
  • New Report: Does Asia Have Enough Water To Develop? – Since our economy runs on water, no water means no growth but there is little conversation on this topic in Asia. To catalyse such conversations, this report provides an overview of the water-nomic challenges facing Asia
  • Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’: Where Are We Now? – Daily & agriculture water use restrictions and the return of rain have bought time but is Cape Town really past ‘Day Zero’? Ahmed Khan from the Department of Environmental Affairs shares his views & lessons learnt
  • Hotels & SDGs: Moving Together On Water Risk – Forward thinking companies are re-aligning their strategies with the SDGs and so is the hotel sector. International Tourism Partnership’s Fran Hughes on their recently announced 2030 vision and goals

Dawn McGregor
Author: Dawn McGregor
Dawn leads China Water Risk’s projects in the textile space, as well as conducts research and analyses on broader water risk and its disclosure. She is also responsible CWR’s communications and extensive network. She showcased these skills at World Water Week, where she has twice been lead rapporteur presenting key findings in the closing plenary, as well as contributing to conference’s conclusion papers. She has also delivered keynotes at various industry conferences, corporate events and investor forums in China and around the world. Dawn previously worked in a global investment bank analysing and mitigating non-financial risk in Asia Pacific. This included crisis management, business resiliency and geo-political risk assessment. She now continues her work in risk assessment with a new focus of China and water. Dawn has a background in science with a degree in Biology and Business, which she chose with the view of bridging the scientific world with the corporate & public sector to create synergistic opportunities. Dawn was born and bred in Hong Kong and has lived in France, England as well as Singapore & Beijing.
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