TECHNOLOGY TRENDS Water Systems

Water underpins all ecosystem functions and is the lifeblood of our existence. Water is connected with almost everything, and its continued availability is crucial for the sustainability of the planet. Due to its status as a finite resource, water scarcity is the primary way by which many of us are made acutely aware of climate change. Water resources are becoming increasingly scarce and less predictable. In some areas, drought has been exacerbated by higher temperatures affecting the availability and distribution of precipitation, whereas in other areas floods, tsunamis, storms, and waterborne disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent and intense. Water is critical to sustaining agricultural production and its shortage has potentially profound impacts on food security, while water quality is deteriorating in many locations, posing health threats to vulnerable populations.

Important statistics regarding this vital resource:

  • Global water demand is projected to increase by 20 to 30% per year by 2050. UNESCO, 2018
  • 72% of all water withdrawals are used by agriculture, 16% by municipalities for households and services, and 12% by industries. UN-Water 2021
  • 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries, of which 733 million live in high and critically water-stressed countries. UN-Water 2021
  • When a territory withdraws 25% or more of its renewable freshwater resources it is said to be ‘water-stressed’. Five out of 11 regions have water stress values above 25%, including two regions with high water stress and one with extreme water stress. UN-Water 2021
  • Water-harvesting and water conservation techniques could boost rainfed kilocalorie production by up to 24% and, if combined with irrigation expansion, by more than 40%. FAO 2020

Importantly, the water-food-energy nexus is fundamental to sustainable development, as demand for all three has been driven by rising populations, evolving diets, development, and rapid urbanization. These three sectors are each ‘hubs’ of potential transformation in their own right, and when approached jointly, present an opportunity to maximize transformational outcomes.

The energy and agriculture sectors’ reliance on water and the linkages between these three domains have prompted an increased number of multi-pronged strategies for more sustainable water management. In recent years, requests to the CTCN for technical assistance related to water have increased substantially, comprising a significant portion during the last year. Since its inception, the CTCN has been working to increase countries’ resilience to the impacts of climate change on water resources, and together with Network partners, provides innovative climate adaptation technologies using GIS, capacity building to strengthen vulnerability assessments, increased use of solar PV for irrigation, gravity-driven membrane technology, and rainwater harvesting and groundwater technologies for water storage.