Water Security: Responses to local, regional and global challenges (2014-2021)

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
International Hydrological Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Publication Year:
April 21, 2020
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

Responses to local, regional, and global challenges (2014-2021) - The International Hydrological Programme (IHP), implemented in programmatic phases and tailored to Member States’ needs, is in its eighth phase in the 2014-2021 period. Since its inception in 1975, IHP has evolved from an internationally coordinated hydrological research programme into a holistic policy-oriented programme. IHP has three main objectives: to mobilize international cooperation to improve knowledge and innovation; to strengthen the science-policy interface; and to facilitate education and capacity development in order to enhance water resources management and governance.

Water, bond of life and fragile resource

Freshwater is a key resource for human health, prosperity and security. It is essential for poverty eradication, gender equality, food security, and the preservation of ecosystems.

Yet billions of people worldwide are confronted with serious freshwater challenges, from water scarcity, poor quality, lack of sanitation facilities, to water-related disasters such as floods and droughts. Some 80% of the world’s population lives in areas with high water security threats.

The UN General Assembly declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right in July 2010. But lack of access to drinking water of adequate quality and quantity remains one of the largest human health problems globally. Although the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on water supply was met in 2010, more than 600 million people still lack access to safe drinking water, with over 40% living in sub-Saharan Africa. The MDG target on sanitation is unlikely to be met; some 2.5 billion in developing countries have no access to improved sanitation facilities. Poor rural populations are most affected.

Water resources are under increasingly severe pressure from climate change and other global drivers. Climate change alters rainfall patterns, soil moisture, humidity, glacier-mass balance and river flow, and also causes changes to underground water sources. At the same time, floods or droughts are rising in frequency and intensity. Over the next 40 years, approximately 800,000 new residents will move to cities around the world every week. Population growth and rapid urbanization will create further pressures on water resources and will have a tremendous impact on the natural environment.

Given these challenges, the need to manage freshwater properly is essential. Sustainable water development is enshrined in the 2030 sustainable development agenda, with water-specific goals explicitly linked to other development targets.


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