This op-ed was posted at Devex.
Every year, the World Economic Forum asks leaders from government, business, and civil society to rank their most pressing risks. For eight consecutive years, including 2019, water crises have been in the top 5. Water is up with climate change, extreme weather, infectious disease, and cyber attacks at the tip of the world risk pyramid.
It’s easy to see why. Every other area of global risk—energy, commerce, agriculture, war, human migration—becomes more severe when water is scarce, overflowing, polluted, or poorly managed. In particular, a lack of water is often a slow-moving crisis, but it can devastate economies, threaten lives and livelihoods, and can cause instability that echoes far beyond parched countries.
Consider in 2018:
- Dwindling water resources in Mali spurred violence in clashes over natural resources that continue today.
- Cape Town, South Africa, almost ran dry, forcing its 3.8 million residents to consume 50 liters of water or less daily per person, for months, to forestall a “day zero.”
- In India, the government warned that the country is “suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat.”
- Floods from Kerala to North Carolina claimed lives, devastated communities, and damaged property.