Achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water, sanitation and hygiene is pivotal to the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. And yet, meeting those targets requires a four-fold increase in the rate of progress.
“Unfortunately, in reality, our progress in achieving SDG 6 has been too slow and off track,” WMO Assistant Secretary-General Dr Wenjian Zhang told the 2023 UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Coordination Segment.
Only 2.5 % of the world’s water is freshwater, which faces growing stress as a result of increased demand from agriculture and other activities and from population increase. Climate change is leading to more frequent water related extremes like flood and drought, whilst poor environmental management has impacted the availability, quality and quantity of water, Dr Zhang told the session in New York. It took place ahead of the World Water Conference in March which aims to accelerate action.
These challenges require rapid development and deployment of innovative and truly transformative solutions and policies that go beyond business-as-usual.
One critical accelerator for SDG 6 is on data and information.
According to the 2022 SDG report, the quality of the water for at least 3 billion people is unknown due to a lack of monitoring
In many parts of the world, hydrological data and information is missing. This information is important to understand where, how much, and in what quality water is and will be available.
60 % of WMO Members report declining capabilities in hydrological monitoring and thus in the provision of decision support in the water, food and energy nexus. More than 50 % of countries worldwide have no quality management system for their water-related data in place.
Less than half of countries worldwide have operational flood and drought early warning systems.
“More comprehensive, connected and harmonized water resources data and information at the local, regional and global scales are needed to support decision-making related to climate change and other environmental and societal changes,” said Dr Zhang.
Early Warnings for All
This is also essential for multi hazard early warning systems which lie at the heart of the UN-wide initiative to achieve Early Warnings for All.
The current framework plan has four pillars, spearheaded by WMO and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and embracing many UN and private sector organizations.
Within WMO, there are three key areas: Earth System observations, improved early warning and predictions and coordinated anticipatory communications.
“Early warning for all must be a key priority, in particular for floods, droughts and other water-related hazards alongside the deployment of nature-based solutions in disaster risk reduction strategies,” Dr Zhang told ECOSOC.
"But, to effectively address both water and climate challenges, we not only need data and information, but we also have to bring climate change and water to the same table – into the same conversation: Tackling them as one. "
This is why WMO is spearheading the Water and Climate Coalition, a community of multi-sectoral actors, guided by high-level leadership and focused climate-related water action to deliver on SDG 6.
The upcoming UN 2023 Water Conference will also provide an excellent platform to discuss these proposed transformative solutions to accelerate achievement of water goals related to climate, resilience and environment.