A resident fetches water from a well at a residential area on the occasion of World Water Day in Quezon City, the Philippines, March 22, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

UNITED NATIONS – Two-thirds of the world's population will continue to live in water insecurity well beyond 2030 if radical measures are not taken, UN water experts warned in a report published on Thursday.

"Unless radical action is taken, this assessment indicates that two-thirds of the world's population will continue to live water-insecure well beyond 2030," says The Global Water Security 2023 Assessment, led by experts at the United Nations University Institute of Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

Also known as the UN Think Tank on Water and established in 1996, the UNU-INWEH is a member of the UNU family of organizations.

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The report, released on the second day of the UN 2023 Water Conference, “provides a multidimensional comparison of the state of water security affecting 7.8 billion people across 186 countries midway into the Water Action Decade (2018-2028) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

Without water security, countries are simply incapable of supporting freshwater ecosystems, livelihoods and human well-being.

Charlotte MacAlister, Senior water security researcher, UNU-INWEH

A press release accompanying the launch of the report states that the world is far from achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 that aims to ensure all people have access to clean water and sanitation.

"Without water security, countries are simply incapable of supporting freshwater ecosystems, livelihoods and human well-being," said Charlotte MacAlister, the report's lead author and senior water security researcher at UNU-INWEH. 

"This global assessment highlights significant development challenges that policy discussions should center on in the seven years left to fulfill SDG 6."

Based on the assessment published by the UNU-INWEH, policymakers are mainly focused on water scarcity mitigation around the globe. The authors argue that this reductionist interpretation of water security "has put the world off-track to meeting SDG 6 by 2030."

To provide a more realistic understanding of the water security status around the world, this UN report evaluated water security on 10 components or dimensions including drinking water, sanitation, good health and water quality, among others.

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The results are worrying: 78 percent of the global population, or about 6.1 billion people, presently live in water-insecure countries.

A girl washes her face with water from a stone waterspout in Lalitpur, Nepal, March 22, 2023, World Water Day. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The global assessment's key findings show that 23 countries – 16 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and seven Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – are critically water-insecure; and more than 70 percent (close to 5.5 billion) do not have safe water access, with Africa having the lowest levels of access, at only 15 percent of the region's population.

A woman fills up water containers at a tap in a camp for internally displaced people in Baidoa, Somalia, on Nov 9. (PHOTO / AFP)

In total, only 33 countries from three geographic regions are water secure, according to the report.

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Almost 31 percent (over 411 million) of people in the 54 African countries, including 33 LDCs and six SIDS, do not have access to a basic drinking water service. Only 201 million people (15 percent) have access to safely managed drinking water, the findings show.

Countries at risk of floods and droughts have compounded challenges that threaten their economic safety, the report said, adding that by region, Africa has the highest number of countries at high risk of floods and droughts, while also experiencing accelerated population growth, urbanization and industrialization.