Improvements to access to fresh water and sanitation have considerably improved since the 1990s. Gains, however, risk being lost to a variety of human induced factors, from unsustainable water use to climate change. In a bid to support developing nations deal with risks to fresh water supplies from a range of factors, the World Bank’s Water Global Practice has hired Mott MacDonald to develop 16 evidence-based case studies from which best practices for developing global water supply and sanitation utilities can be derived.
Last year, WHO figures show, 91% of the world’s population had access to an improved drinking-water source, compared with 76% in 1990; yet 663 million people still rely on unimproved sources, including 159 million dependent on surface water. ‘Improved drinking-water source’ does not necessarily imply safe drinking water, with 1.8 billion people using a drinking-water source contaminated with faeces. As it stands, an estimated 842,000 people die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and hand hygiene; while 240 million people are affected by schistosomiasis – an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms – among a host of other waterborne and sanitation related ailments.
While conditions around water and sanitation have improved in recent decades, unabated and unmitigated climate change effects, as well as current poor utilisation of water resources, means that the current gains may not be sustainable in the long-term. A fresh water crisis, is listed by the World Economic Forum as the ninth most likely sever risk and the third most impactful, behind a failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Best practice case studies
To support the development of the World Bank’s Water Global Practice (WGP), the World Bank has hired Mott MacDonald to develop 16 evidence-based case studies. The research aims to provide insight into how of urban water and sanitation service utilities, primarily in developing countries, are accounting for climate change effects in their planning and operations.
Through the case studies, the WGP will be in a better position to advise urban water supply and sanitation utilities about how best to transform their assets and operations to be resilient to future climate stresses, such as increased rainfall intensity, drought, rising sea levels and storm surges. The consultancy firm is to present its findings, as well as offer an improved understanding of climate resilience best practices and opportunities.
Doug Hinrichs, Mott MacDonald’s team leader for the engagement, says, “The world will not be able to meet the great development challenges of the 21st century, such as food and energy security, liveable cities and climate change, without improving how countries manage their water resources and allow people access to reliable water and sanitation services.”