U.N. warns of looming global water crisis. Here’s some solutions.

It’s World Water Day(Opens in a new tab) and we live in a time and on a planet where access to safe drinking water is a fundamental human right.(Opens in a new tab) Cool, right? We also live on a planet where as many as 3.6 billion people experience water stress for at least a month each year.

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Leading up to the first United Nations water summit since 1977(Opens in a new tab), a newly released U.N. World Water Development Report(Opens in a new tab) warns that humanity is walking a dangerous path toward losing its most precious resource due to “vampiric overconsumption and underdevelopment.” The report states that the biggest causes for the water crisis are climate change and the increased industrial and urban demands, as well as the unsustainable management of the ever-expanding agriculture sector, which uses a staggering 70 percent of the world’s freshwater supply.

(Opens in a new tab)The worrying report was published just days after the latest Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report(Opens in a new tab) which warned that humanity is nearing its last chances to defuse “the ticking time bomb” of increasingly severe climate change, as U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres put it.

But it’s not all gloom. Despite the stark warning, the Water Development Report(Opens in a new tab) actually focuses on solutions. A global water crisis is only imminent if not addressed in time, and the good news is we already have a lot of the projects and initiatives we need to tackle the problem.

It’s important to keep our eyes on world leaders as they’re the most responsible decision makers in the fight to preserve our water. But not all solutions come from governments. Here are a few important water conservation and flood management solutions Mashable has explored in the past.

Just a week before the release of the U.N. water report, Albania declared its Vjosa River a national park, making it the first of its kind in Europe. The decision means that the continent’s ‘last wild river’ will be protected from the future construction of artificial barriers detrimental to its precious ecosystems, which were previously threatened by the Balkan nation’s plans to build hydropower stations in the area. The news also brought hope to climate organizers, as Vjosa’s preservation as a wild river would not have been possible were it not for the years-long campaigning by NGOs and environmental groups.

In the past few years, historic droughts and megadroughts were among the climate disasters that wreaked havoc in countries from Kenya to the U.S. and China. 2023 is just starting, but a dry, warm winter in Europe has already caused concerningly low water levels in Venice’s historic canals as early in the year as February.

In 2022, the horn of Africa experienced extremely severe droughts which displaced a staggering 16 million people in the region. Mashable looked at how sand dams offered sustainable local relief for the community in Kenya’s Turkana County.

Near the mountains of Morocco, local communities face permanent displacement due to increasingly frequent droughts. To offer a solution, Water Foundation has collaborated with Aqualonis to install a fog collecting net called CloudFisher that captures raindrops on the hills of Mount Boutmezguida, transforming the fog into drinkable water for the local community.

Some communities have scarce access to drinking water, but are surrounded by bountiful amounts of seawater. The concept of water desalination is nothing new; countries in the Middle East have been using it for years. The sustainability of the industry, however, is a relatively new concept.

In 2021, Mashable explored how Dutch/British company Desolenator relies on solar power to reduce energy consumption and remove chemical byproducts.

Small-scale and individual solutions also matter. We recently told the story of Diana Kellogg’s oval girls’ school in the Thar desert which, among other amazing features, uses ancient rain harvesting techniques to ensure water supply for the whole building.

It may sound counterintuitive, but severe droughts often lead up to severe floods, as they dry out the soil to a point where it cannot soak water anymore. Regardless of droughts, the permeability of surfaces is a main factor in whether a place floods or not. Healthy soil is a natural sponge that can easily absorb large water quantities. In modern cities, though, soil is a rarity; healthy soil — even more so. As the amount and intensity of urban flooding increases, architects and urban planners across the world work to substitute concrete with greenery, showing us that nature already has all the solutions we need for a more environmentally sustainable, equitable future.

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