UN spotlights ‘invisible’ value of groundwater during World Water Week

Women and children  collect water from a recently rehabilitated well point in Gwembe Valley, Zambia. (file)
© UNICEF/Karin Schermbrucke
Women and children collect water from a recently rehabilitated well point in Gwembe Valley, Zambia. (file)

UN spotlights ‘invisible’ value of groundwater during World Water Week

Climate and Environment

Groundwater, which sustains drinking water supplies, sanitation systems, farms, industries and ecosystems, is being overused, polluted and neglected, speakers warned at a World Water Week event on Thursday.

It is our duty to ensure groundwater has its rightful place in all of our action plans,” said Gilbert Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water, in his video message to an online session, titled “Groundwater: Making the invisible visible.”

99 per cent

According to the United Nations World Water Development Report 2022, groundwater accounts for 99 per cent of all liquid freshwater on Earth. However, this natural resource is poorly understood and consequently undervalued and mismanaged.

Noting that demand for water is growing, Mr. Houngbo, who is also President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), underscored the urgent need for policymakers to understand groundwater’s critical role and better manage the competing demands of water and sanitation systems, agriculture, industry, ecosystems and climate change adaptation.

See the unseen

World Water Week 2022 – taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, from 23 August to 1 September – features many discussions, both online and in person, under the theme: “Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water”.

The session on groundwater, which also included presentations from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and others, was among the several activities UN-Water is co-hosting to highlight the interlinkages between the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (water and sanitation) and other Goals.

Decade of action

These deliberations are expected to help bring the water agenda to the forefront, ahead of the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater in Paris in December and the UN Water Conference in New York in March 2023, formally known as the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028).

The primary aim of the Conference is to raise awareness of the global water crisis and decide on a concerted action to achieve the internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.