by Priya Bapat, Humanitas Global Development
Last week on March 22, we observed World Water Day, a global awareness day created by the United Nations in 1993 that has increased in importance over the past several years. Last year's theme focused on the water and hunger, highlighting the integral connection between water management and availability and the incidence of global hunger. This year's theme is equally important for global food security advocates - international cooperation on global water management.
Together with UNESCO, UN-Water is promoting international water cooperation as a means to combat poverty, improve socio-economic development and build a more secure world. Ensuring a water secure future requires cooperation across political boundaries, geographies, economics and competing priorities. The important role that water plays in agriculture is well understood. If we are to double global agricultural production in the next 40 years, we need to make sure that there is enough available water in the world to support our present and future food production needs. As low-income countries continue to develop and the middle class grows, global demand for animal products will also continue to grow, driving up our global agricultural water needs even further.
However, as important as food security is, it is not our only pressing water need. Currently, 92% of the global freshwater supply is used for agriculture. This leaves only 8% of the global freshwater supply for other uses, such as drinking, cooking and bathing. As we consider how to improve water delivery systems so that we are able to increase global agricultural production, it is of absolute importance that we also ensure that there is an adequate supply of freshwater available to support our other needs. It is also of critical importance to find ways to improve the efficiency of water usage in agriculture, through better management practices and the adoption and development of technologies such as drip irrigation. Food security and hunger eradication are extremely important development priorities, but they are no more important than other goals, such as making sure that people around the world, both now and in the future, have constant access to clean, fresh drinking water.
Although World Water Day has now passed, UNESCO and UN-Water will continue to advocate for increased collaboration and cooperation on global water management through 2013 and beyond. To read more about examples of global water cooperation efforts currently underway, visit the World Water Day website.