Floods, extreme rainfall, droughts and melting glaciers…many of the major signs of climate change involve water. On this year’s World Meteorological Day, the UN weather agency (WMO) is reinforcing the message of World Water Day, by focusing on the links between climate and water, and calling for better water-related data.
In a message to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that climate and water are “inextricably linked. Both lie at the heart of global goals on sustainable development, climate change and disaster risk reduction”.
“Water”, he continued, “is one of the most precious commodities of the 21st century. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services will be central to efforts to ‘count every drop, because every drop counts’”.
We can’t manage what we can’t measure: the importance of data
The increasingly unpredictable, changing weather patterns are likely to lead to more “water stress” which, in turn, will affect sustainable development and security.
The effects of unpredictable weather were described, in detail, in the WMO’s flagship weather report, the Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019, released on 10 March. The study showed that climate change is having a major effect on all aspects of the environment, as well as on the health and wellbeing of the global population.
In 2019, extreme weather events, some of which were unprecedented in scale, took place in many parts of the world.
These included monsoon rains and deadly floods in India, the driest year on record in Australia, and the widespread devastation caused by cyclone Idai in Mozambique and the east coast of Africa.
This is why the WMO is urging for a ramping up of water forecasting, monitoring and management of supplies. This will help to tackle the problem of too much, too little, or too polluted water.
Better data can help in the planning of water projects, such as hydroelectric plants; improved understanding of the impact that water resource management has on the environment, the economy and society; and can help us to better protect people, property and ecosystems from water-related hazards, particularly floods, droughts and pollutants.
Closer collaboration between weather and water services
Because of the likelihood that future water demands will require tough decisions to be made, when it comes to allocating resources, WMO is calling for closer collaboration between meteorological (weather) and hydrological (water) services.
The capacity to forecast, monitor and manage water is currently fragmented and inadequate, a concern for WMO and its chief, Petteri Taalas. “It is worrying to see that Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) which focuses on clean water and sanitation, is so far off track now.
“The world needs to demonstrate the same unity and commitment to climate action and cutting greenhouse gas emissions as to containing the Coronavirus pandemic”, he said.
WMO is committed to working closely with UN Water and other key United Nations partners, towards enhanced implementation and acceleration of SDG6.