UN water report for 2016 focuses on jobs

As water resources play a crucial role in a globally linked economy, the propagation of smart water management is in everyone’s best interest. This year’s annual report from the United Nations Water agency, launched on March 22, 2016, is titled “Water and Jobs”. The report focuses on the worldwide connection between water availability and employment. The facts speak for themselves: three out of four jobs worldwide are water-dependent, and we need to secure as many of these jobs as possible.

The global risk of highest concern for the coming decade is access to water. Almost half of the world’s working population (1.5 billion people) works in water-related sectors of the economy, and an additional 1.2 billion people work in industries with an indirect connection to water. Both developed and developing countries will face many water-related challenges in the years to come. The UN report details how water shortages might have an impact on our way of life — from causing or exacerbating health problems to sparking or widening conflicts in already unstable areas. Water crises could limit the development of entire regions and stunt economic growth worldwide.

The most endangered jobs are in agriculture, which employs 30 percent of the global workforce and is even more directly connected to the livelihood and welfare of workers in the poorest countries. Many other industries will also face difficulties, such as the manufacturing industry, which the report estimates will increase its water consumption by 400% by 2050. Even tourism, which contributed to 10 percent of global GDP in 2015 and employs an estimated 284 million people, is very highly dependent on water quality and sufficient water resources. More and more companies are joining partnerships such as the “Global Water Initiative” as they grow increasingly aware of the need for efficient water use.

Climate change, which is causing flooding and drought in many parts of the world, is another growing concern. While floods and water scarcity directly threatens human lives, the consequences of drinking poor-quality water also has very serious health and economic implications. According to data from the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.8 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Another report from the UN concludes that half of all hospital beds in the world are occupied to treat patients suffering from water-related diseases linked to contamination and pollution — placing a heavy burden on health care systems.

The UN is trying to mobilise stakeholders from multiple sectors in support of the water agenda by promoting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for water, sanitation and related targets. Without urgent and comprehensive action, many jobs are at risk, and the ripple effects of job loss can have devastating effects on the global economy. The challenge, then, is to channel and translate this heightened awareness into sustained energy, action and results. Source: www.unwater.org