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Valuing Water 2021 World Water Development Report

The World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the global water crisis, and a core focus of the observance is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

The theme of World Water Day 2021 is valuing water. The value of water is about much more than its economic value – water has enormous and complex value for our households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource. SDG 6 is to ensure water and sanitation for all. Without a comprehensive understanding of water’s true, multidimensional value, we will be unable to safeguard this critical resource for the benefit of everyone.

The 2021 World Water Development Report on “Valuing Water” assesses the current status of and challenges to the valuation of water across differing sectors and perspectives and identifies ways in which valuation can be promoted as a tool help achieve sustainability.

Water is a unique and non-substitutable resource of limited quantity. As the foundation of life, societies and economies, it carries multiple values and benefits. But unlike most other valuable resources, it has proven extremely difficult to determine its true ‘value’.

Water is our most precious resource, a ‘blue gold’ to which more than 2 billion people do not have direct access. It not only is essential to survival, but also plays a sanitary, social and cultural role at the heart of human societies.

Ignoring the value of water is the main cause of water waste and misuse

  • Water has multiple values. 
  • Approaches to valuing water vary widely across – and even within – different user dimensions and perspectives. 
  • The failure to fully value water in all in its different uses is considered a root cause, or a symptom, of the political neglect of water and its mismanagement.
  • Recognizing, measuring and expressing water’s multiple values, and incorporating these into decision-making processes, are fundamental to achieving sustainable and equitable water resources management. 

How do you value water?

Traditional economic accounting tends to limit water values to the way that most other products are valued but water is not like other raw materials: its price its cost of delivery and its value are not synonymous.
While the first two are potentially quantifiable from a basic monetary point of view, the notion of ‘value’ covers a much wider range of intangible benefits.

Further reading from UNCCD Library: water security ;  water footprint  ; water stress  ; water harvesting 

Land restoration is a vital ally to World Water Day. As we celebrate today, let’s remember that we must value water and land equally as part of the same challenge – to build a better, more equal, healthier planet post COVID-19.

  • The Report is available here for free download, in English, French and Italian.
  • The Executive Summary is available here in 11 languages
  • The Audiobook of the Executive Summary is available here in 4 languages
  • Social media messages and cards are available here
  • A new website dedicated to the Report has just been launched, please access it here
  • A new video on the Report’s main messages is available here

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