Strong concerns about freshwater shortages have increased over the past few years, from 49% in 2014 to 61% in 2022
A global study published days before the UN 2023 Water Conference showed that 58 per cent of people from 31 countries are seriously concerned about freshwater shortages, whereas 30 per cent claim to be greatly impacted by it.
The conference, to be held in New York City from March 22-24, 2023, is being eyed as a platform to raise awareness, define a roadmap and advance the water agenda. The report also coincides with sustainability consultancy GlobeScan’s latest webinar, The Future of Water: Insights to Help You Stay Ahead of What’s Next.
Also read: Here is what we can expect from the upcoming UN 2023 Water Conference
For this research, a survey enumerating almost 30,000 people from 31 countries was conducted to analyse attitudes to water shortages. It was carried out by GlobeScan and released by Circle of Blue, a non-profit newsroom and the conservation organisation World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on March 15.
Some 58 per cent of the population who raised serious concerns about access to water includes Mexicans, Colombians and Brazilians. At the same time, people in mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea did not consider freshwater shortages a “very serious” issue.
Strong concerns about freshwater shortages have increased over the past few years, from a low of 49 per cent in 2014 to 61 per cent in 2022, among 17 countries consistently tracked. Fears about climate change have also increased from 45 per cent in 2014 to 65 per cent in 2022.
People in Argentina, South Korea, Vietnam, Colombia, Germany and Peru reported the largest increases in concerns about water shortages over the past few years.
Some 30 per cent of people globally claimed to have been “greatly” personally affected by freshwater shortages, while a global majority (56 per cent) feel moderately personally affected. Only a quarter say they are not affected at all.
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Most people surveyed in Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Peru and Turkey said they are greatly personally affected by a lack of freshwater. In contrast, fewer than one out of ten in Germany, Japan and the Netherlands said they are greatly affected.
Globally, people in urban areas (32 per cent) are more likely to be greatly affected by a lack of freshwater than those in rural (28 per cent) or towns and suburban areas (26 per cent).
As many as 38 per cent of people said they have been “greatly” personally affected by climate change, while 75 per cent said to have been “moderately” affected.
People who claimed to be personally affected by climate change viewed drought as the most concerning impact of it. About 37 per cent of those experiencing climate change claimed to perceive it through droughts.
The global survey was conducted online among samples of 1,000 adults in 31 countries and territories. This involves 1,500 people in the United States, 500 each in Hong Kong, Kenya, Nigeria and Singapore and 850 in Egypt, weighted to reflect general population census data.
The research was conducted during June and July of 2022 with a total of 29,293 participants.
The participating countries include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, the USA and Vietnam.
“We are seeing a rare convergence, when public opinion is aligning with profound realities as the world faces compounding water challenges that are affecting how we grow our food, generate our power, and support a sustainable economy and environment, said J Carl Ganter, managing director of Circle of Blue in a press release.
Also read: Demand for fresh water to be 40% higher than supply by end of decade: UNGA president
This survey of some 30,000 people definitively shows that citizens around the world are feeling and talking about the effects of water and climate stress, Ganter added.
“On the eve of the UN Water Conference, this is a crucial barometer that reveals increasing public demand for action from political and corporate leaders,” said Ganter.
Meanwhile, Alexis Morgan, WWF Global Water Stewardship Lead commented:
Water doesn’t come from a tap — it comes from nature. But with nature loss and climate instability increasing, water scarcity will only worsen, impacting societies and economies across the globe. Yet through collaboration, restoring wetlands, re-connecting rivers and replenishing aquifers, we have proven ways to tackle these shared water challenges. It’s time to urgently invest in these solutions.
It comes as no surprise that people are becoming more and more worried about the availability of freshwater. Last year droughts affected the lives of countless numbers of people on every continent. Indicators suggest this is likely to get worse, said Perrine Bouhana, director, GlobeScan.
“High levels of public concern about water means there is an opportunity right now for governments and NGOs to help people and businesses understand how their actions can genuinely make a difference to this globally important problem that affects all of us,” Bouhana added.
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