Climate change threatens water access for world’s poorest, says WaterAid

March 16, 2021
Water Aid Climate Resilience Projects, Funded by HSBC, Dacope,Khulna, Bangladesh
WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

The impact of climate change on people’s water supplies is being overlooked – threatening to put progress on bringing clean water to all back decades unless urgent action is taken to help the world’s poorest communities adjust to changing weather patterns.

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WaterAid’s latest report,  shows how people are losing access to clean water as longer droughts dry up springs, seawater infiltrates groundwater supplies and landslides take out water pumps. The international development organization shows that investing in water systems that provide a reliable supply whatever the weather, is a frontline defence against the impact of climate change. 

In the crucial battle to reduce current and future global emissions, the situation faced now by those most impacted by climate change has been given little focus or investment.  

Without easy access to clean water, people’s lives are blighted by sickness, poverty and the endless drudgery of collecting water. Women and girls around the world collectively already spend an estimated 200 million hours a year – or around 23,000 years – walking to fetch water. For the one in ten of the world’s population that do not have clean water close to home, the hours spent collecting water or the time needed to recover from waterborne illnesses caused by dirty water robs entire communities of an opportunity to build a better future. 

For water, climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating problems caused by poor management of water resources, lack of political will and inadequate investment. With the current climate scenario, it is predicted that water scarcity will displace between 24 million and 700 million people by 2030.

Currently only 5% of total global climate funding is spent on helping countries adapt to their changing climate, and that money is not targeted at the communities most vulnerable to climate change. The investment in ensuring that everyone, no matter where they live, has a reliable and safe water source to help make communities become more resilient to climate change is completely inadequate to the growing crisis – some of the most climate vulnerable countries only receive $1 per person per year for investment in water.  
 Nicole Hurtubise, WaterAid Canada's Chief Executive, said:  
“Climate change is making it more difficult for vulnerable people to be able to rely on having clean water when they need it and it’s a great injustice that the world’s poorest people, who’ve contributed the least to the crisis, are living with its most destructive impacts.   

“Unless communities have access to a reliable source of water, people’s health will suffer, and they’ll be burdened with spending more and more time searching for water, taking away the opportunity to create a better life and escape poverty.   

“Governments around the world need to step up now, commit to reductions and recognize the critical role clean water has in helping communities cope with climate change and recovering quickly from related extreme weather events.” 
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For more information, please contact: 
In London: Ekene Oboko, Senior Media Officer, [email protected]. Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected] 
In the US: Emily Haile, Senior Communications and Media Manager, [email protected] 
In Delhi: Juhi Mohan, Media and Communications Coordinator, [email protected] 
In Melbourne: Tegan Dunne, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +61 3 9001 8248 
In Ottawa: Aneesha Hampton, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +1 (613) 230-5182. 
In Stockholm: Magdalena Olsson, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +46 (0)8 677 30 33 or +46 (0)73 661 93 31, or Petter Gustafsson, Communications Officer, on [email protected] or +46 (0)8 677 30 21 or +46 (0)72 858 58 51 
In Japan: Marina Sugiyama, Communications Officer, [email protected]  

Notes to Editors:
WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organization works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalized people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets.