UN's Migiro Encourages Security Initiatives

"Water demand is growing at twice the rate of the global population," said U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro during the "High-Level Symposium on Water Security at the United Nations," Feb. 4-6.

The event was coordinated by the World Water Organization.

She noted that the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, chaired by the Prince of Orange, continues its efforts to galvanize action on water and sanitation issues.

"Achieving water security means more effective water management. It means enhancing food security through more equitable allocation of water for agriculture and food production. It means ensuring the integrity of ecosystems. And it means promoting peaceful collaboration in the sharing of water resources, particularly in the case of boundary and transboundary water resources," Migiro said.

The quantity and quality of water resources are being jeopardized by the impact of population growth, rural to urban migration, and rising wealth and resource consumption. "If present trends continue," Migiro predicted, "1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress.

She noted that agriculture consumes the largest proportion of freshwater, accounting for roughly three quarters of total usage. In Africa, this fraction is closer to 90 percent. More than 1.4 billion people live in river basins where their use of water exceeds minimum recharge levels, leading to desiccation of rivers and the depletion of groundwater.

>The unreliability of water delivery for agriculture in many countries has pushed farmers to use groundwater, leading to overuse. Groundwater depletion has thus become a serious threat to agricultural systems, food security, and livelihoods, particularly across Asia and the Middle East.

Migiro commended symposium's talks on the possible creation of a Global Water Security Alliance, which would support countries facing a water crisis, whether natural or man-made.

"We have our work cut out for us," Migiro said. "We need more investment in infrastructure and strengthened national legislation. We need to build institutional capacity from the local level upwards and increase popular participation, particularly of women, in designing water and sanitation systems. Most of all, we need concerted global action."