World Water Day: The UfM steps up regional action to address water scarcity
- Freshwater availability is likely to decrease by 15% in the coming decades, causing important constraints for agriculture and human use in an area already suffering from water scarcity.
- The Mediterranean population classified as ‘water-poor’ is expected to increase to over 250 million, within 20 years.
- The UfM Water Agenda aims to ensure that each and every Euro-Mediterranean country receives the necessary technical, administrative, and financial recommendations to help achieve water security for its population and their economic activities.
Barcelona, 17 March 2020. On World Water Day, held under the thematic “Water and Climate change”, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) emphasises the need for regional dialogue to address common challenges related to water scarcity. The region’s population classified as ‘water-poor’ is expected to increase to over 250 million within 20 years, according to the first-ever scientific report on the impact of climate and environmental change in the Mediterranean. Irrigation represents between 50% and 90% of the total Mediterranean water demand and the demand is projected to increase up to 18% by the end of the century due to climate change alone. Satisfying the increasing demand for good quality drinking water and water for irrigation is a complex challenge, often involving disagreement between users of groundwater and landowners, or between countries.
Twenty-five years after the launch of the Barcelona Process, a Euro-Mediterranean regional approach is more than ever relevant to tackle climate change and water scarcity issues. At the core of its mission, and within the framework of the ministerial mandate entrusted to it, the UfM emphasises the need for a regional dialogue through its Water Agenda to ensure that each and every Euro-Mediterranean country receives the necessary technical, administrative, and financial recommendations to help achieve water security for its population and their economic activities, taking into account its impact on agriculture, employment, hygiene and climate change.
The UfM has conducted a mapping of the region’s water financial needs and has developed a regional Water Agenda setting out a series of technical and financial recommendations to leverage investments and propose new operational and innovative partnerships, notably through sustainable financing. Technical workshops have taken place in Lebanon, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and others are to be held this year, namely in Tunisia and Jordan.
The UfM Deputy Secretary General for Water, Environment and Blue Economy, Isidro González stressed that: “Addressing the pressing challenge of water scarcity, which is nowadays exacerbated by the consequences of climate change, is fundamental to contribute to stability in our region. All the activities implemented under the UfM Water Agenda aim to ensure access to safe drinking water as a fundamental human right and with a particular focus of leaving no one behind.”
This regional initiative is implemented to help achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal, “Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”, in the Euro-Mediterranean area. The UfM Water Agenda aims to facilitate general access to sanitation services, including in rural areas, by sharing best and adapted practices from prior experiences in UfM countries. This includes the improvement of treated wastewater reuse as a nonconventional resource that can contribute to mitigating local water shortage.
Highlights of UfM support to regional projects and initiatives on water
- The Water and Environment Support (WES), a EU-funded project part of the UfM Water Agenda, will focus on strengthening the efficient use of water in urban and rural areas, the appropriate treatment of waste water to allow for its use/re-use, as well as the cost-recovery and affordability of water services. WES will implement its activities from June onwards in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, Palestine and Tunisia.
- The Integrated Program for protection of the Lake Bizerte against pollution, endorsed by the UfM Member States, seeks to contribute majorly to the depollution of the Lake of Bizerte, in northern Tunisia, and reduce indirect pollution impacting the Mediterranean Sea, thereby improving the environmental and socio-economic conditions for more than 400,000 inhabitants.
- The “Desalination Facility for the Gaza strip” project will supply drinking water to 2 million Palestinian inhabitants, ensuring a sustainable solution for the chronic and longstanding water shortage and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where over 95% of the water is not drinkable due to the over-pumping of a polluting coastal aquifer.