Furthermore, climate change is playing havoc with the water cycle, disrupting weather systems and rainfall patterns that deliver either too much or too little, and rarely where and when it is needed.
This is not due to a lack of capital, expertise or solutions — all three are available in abundance.
It is a failure of national and international foresight, planning and cooperation. With a better understanding of the multidimensional values of water, we will be better able to safeguard this critical resource for everyone’s benefit.
But there are reasons to be hopeful. First, water projects are beginning to figure prominently in National Adaptation Plans in countries such as China, Ghana and Bangladesh. These plans help communities identify and adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as water scarcity and droughts.
Modern wastewater treatment plants use bacteria to break down organic matter. The byproduct, biogas, can be used for cooking, heating and cooling, and to generate renewable energy in waste-to-energy plants. Investing in wastewater treatment is therefore good for our health, our environment, the economy, and our climate.
One of the reasons why water initiatives are underfunded is that funding for building resilience, cutting carbon emissions and development often exists in silos. Harnessing resources from different finance pools is complicated. This is particularly true when water projects transcend national boundaries, like the current crisis.
Even at local and national levels, expertise to put together multi-sectoral project proposals is often lacking.
Water deserves a greater share of climate and development finance, and a much bigger role in our post-pandemic recoveries.