More than 10,000 participants gathered at the United Nations headquarters and online to push for global attention to the world’s escalating water crisis during the UN 2023 Water Conference that convened from 22-24 March in New York.
Co-hosted by the governments of Tajikstan and the Netherlands, the first UN Water Conference in 46 years drew strong parallels between the water crisis and the climate crisis, as the world is facing a surge of unprecedented water-related disasters including floods, droughts and polluted water systems.
Climate change, migration and conflicts are all linked to the need for water. The Horn of Africa is under the longest and most severe drought on record, with more than 1.75 million people internally displaced in Ethiopia and Somalia and more than 180,000 Somali and South Sudanese refugees who have fled to Kenya and Ethiopia. Parts of Europe and China have also been affected by drought, while calamitous floods have recently struck Pakistan, southern Africa and California in the U.S.
An analysis of 20 years of satellite data published in February by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found that the total intensity of extreme weather events was strongly correlated with increases in global mean temperature – more so than with El Niño or other natural weather occurrences. This suggests that the planet’s continued warming will cause more frequent, more severe, longer and larger droughts and floods, the researchers concluded.
In sub-Saharan Africa, rainfall events have generally intensified over the years, compared to large swaths of Europe and China that have become drier, the study found.