Geneva. According to the UN, our planet is heading for a catastrophic water crisis.
A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reveals that the Earth’s water cycle is out of balance due to the climate crisis and human intervention. By 2022, more than half of river and reservoir patterns deviated significantly from average, according to the alarming report, “State of Global Water Resources 2022.” More than 3.6 billion people—nearly 40% of the world’s population—do not have adequate access to drinking water for at least one month of the year. By 2050, that number will rise to more than five billion, according to the ominous outlook from the UN’s water agency.
Compared to the average, rivers and reservoirs were also drier, while in Europe, the summer drought caused evaporation to increase and soil moisture to decrease. Droughts and low water levels occurred worldwide, from the U.S. to the Horn of Africa to the Danube, Rhine and Yangtze rivers in China. At the same time, extreme flooding was recorded in the Indus River basin in Pakistan.
According to the report, rising temperatures destabilize the hydrological cycle: “Glaciers and ice cover are retreating before our eyes,” explains WMO chief Petteri Taalas. “Higher temperatures have accelerated the water cycle and also disrupted it. A warmer atmosphere retains more moisture. There is much heavier precipitation and flooding. And at the opposite extreme, there’s more evaporation, drier soils and intense droughts.”
Also of concern is the lack of accurate measurements of groundwater reservoirs and soil moisture, as the WMO points out. It urges countries to improve their measurement systems to provide early warnings and implement more efficient water management. Time is of the essence to address this looming water crisis.
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