Water and global changes


Changes in culture and climate can lead some regions to a very clear drop in available resources of water.

Significant efforts were put into the MDGs implementation to reduce the number of people still lacking access to water and sanitation services. However, as dramatic global changes arise, the question of a universal access to water and sanitation remains highly challenging. Our planet’s water resources are under tremendous sources of stress due to the high rate and pace of population growth, urbanization, climate change, inadequate governance and an overall inefficient management of the resource sorldwide.


Water access and climate change

Although climate change is not the main cause behind the water crisis, it could well be generating some very negative impacts on water resources and their management, by putting increasing pressure on both surface and underground water. Climate change is also likely to modify water quality and quantity. Draughts, floods, hurricanes and monsoon seasons are ever more severe and developing countries suffer the most. The increase in global temperatures also leds to faster evaporation and faster melting of glaciers and ice-caps, thereby reducing reliability and quality of the water provision. In coastal areas, climate change impacts are even worsened by the rise of sea levels and drop in groundwater levels, which could cause saline water to infiltrate coastal aquifers. UN Habitat  warned that over 3,300 cities, home to 380 million inhabitants currently live on coastal  areas that are less than 10 meters below sea level. Climate change and environmental degradation are estimated to displace between 200 and 700 millions of people by 2050, according to the International Office for Migrations (IOM).


Water access and urban growth

Our planet is facing unprecedented rate and pace of urbanization and demographic growth. The world crossed a threshold in 2008 when more than half of its population lived in urban areas for the first time. In 2030, Africa’s and Asia’ urban population should be twice what it was in 2000 and developing countries cities should represent around 80% of the global population. Cities in developing countries are growing at a rate similar to that of 19th century European cities and encounter the same type of challenges, in particular lack of access to basic services such as water and sanitation.

This demographic explosion puts pressure on accessing water and sanitation services and damages the resource. Over the past decades, water demand increased twice as fast as the population growth, leading to widespread water shortages and water crises.

There are also wide gaps in accessing water and sanitation access, between urban and rural areas on the one hand and the poor and the more well-off households on the other hand. Generally speaking, access to water and sanitation is relatively better in urban areas than in rural areas although water and sanitation services develop at a slower pace than urban growth.

To go further, please refer to the “Global changes: new challenges for accessing water and sanitation” seminar.  


(Re)sources' recommendations

  • Build qualitative and quantitative monitoring and impact indicators to assess impact of climate change on water resources
  • Integrate measures to promote adaption of resource conservation and usage at the international and regional levels.
  • Address the major issue of “informal habitat” in urban areas as social and environmental consequences of politically neglecting these zones would be incredibly disastrous.
  • Increase financial input for water and sanitation infrastructure.
  • Tackle water resource pollution in order to allow reuse of immediately available resources.
  • Raise awareness on the importance of sanitation among stakeholders (water and sanitation education and training, specific actions for the empowerment of women...)


  • A l'aube du millénaire urbain, la moitié de la population mondiale vit dans les villes, dont la population augmente chaque jour de 180 000 personnes.
  • D'ici à 2030, 84 % de la population des pays en développement vivront dans les zones urbaines ce qui bien sûr a des conséquences sur l'accès aux services essentiels. 
  • Les pays en développement absorbent 95% de la croissance urbaine mondiale avec, chaque mois 5 millions de citadins de plus à nourrir, loger et auxquels il faut donner accès à l'eau et à l'électricité.
  • Les prévisions pour 2050 nous font attendre 9 milliards de personnes sur terre.

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Water and global changes