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The United Nations World Water Development Report 2019: Water and Climate Change

The 2020 edition of the World Water Development Report (WWDR 2020) entitled ‘Water and Climate Change’ aims at helping the water community to tackle the challenges of climate change and informing the climate change community about the opportunities that improved water management offers in terms of adaptation and mitigation.
‘Leaving no one behind’ is at the heart of the commitment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to allow all people in all countries to benefit from socio-economic development and to achieve the full realization of human rights.

The scientific evidence is clear: the climate is changing and will continue to change, affecting societies mainly through water. Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water for basic human needs, threatening the effective enjoyment of the human rights to water and sanitation for potentially billions of people. The alteration of the water cycle will also pose risks for energy production, food security, human health, economic development and poverty reduction, thus seriously jeopardizing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2020 United Nations World Water Development Report focuses on the challenges, opportunities and potential responses to climate change, in terms of adaptation, mitigation and improved resilience that can be addressed through improving water management.

Combining climate change adaptation and mitigation, through water, is a win-win proposal, improving the provision of water supply and sanitation services and combating both the causes and impacts of climate change, including disaster risk reduction.


  • Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century (FAO, 2013a). Combined with amore erratic and uncertain supply, this will aggravate the situation of currently water-stressed regions, and generate water stress in regions with currently abundant water resources.
  • Water stress already affects every continent (Figure 3). Physical water scarcity is often a seasonal phenomenon, rather than a chronic one (Figure 4), and climate change is likely to cause shifts in seasonal water availability throughout the year in several places (IPCC, 2014a). About four billion people live under conditions of severe physical water scarcity for at least one month per year (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2016). Around 1.6 billion people, or almost a quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage, which means they lack the necessary infrastructure to access water (UN-Water, 2014).
  • Floods and storms account for nearly 90% of the most severe natural disasters 
  • Around 74% of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were water-related and during the past 20 years, the total number of deaths caused only by floods and droughts exceeded 166,000, while floods and droughts affected over three billion people, and caused total economic damage of almost US$700 billion (EM-DAT, 2019).3
  • Droughts accounted for 5% of natural disasters, affecting 1.1 billion people, killing 22,000 more, and causing US$100 billion in damage over the 20-year period (1995–2015). Over the course of one decade, the number of floods rose from an annual average of 127 in 1995 to 171 in 2004 (CRED/UNISDR, 2015).
  • The number of deaths, people affected and economic losses significantly varies annually and by continent, with Asia and Africa being the most impacted on all counts (Figures 6, 7, 8).
  • Irrigation land is where the impact of elevated temperatures and aridity will be felt most. Although the current extent of this type of land (about 3,3 million km2) accounts for only 2.5% of the total land area, it does represent 20% of cultivated land and generates some 40% of the global agricultural output (FAOSTAT, n.d.) Read MORE:
  • United Nations World Water Development Report 2019: Water and Climate Change
  • Executive Summary
  • Facts and figures
  • World Water Development reports collection
  • UNESCO World Water Page

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