WMO marked its 70th anniversary on 23 March, World Meteorological Day. Members selected "Climate Change and Water" as the theme for this landmark year’s celebration to underline the impacts of climate change on water and raise the profile of water in the climate debate. One of the biggest impacts of climate change is on water, which in turn affects sustainable development and security.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message that the hydrological cycle is often taken for granted. "But it lies at the heart of many of our global Sustainable Development Goals – from ending hunger, to ensuring health and well-being, enabling productive industries, sustaining thriving communities and unlocking the potential of affordable and clean energy for all." He continued, "We need to manage climate and water in a more coordinated and sustainable manner to address the urgent need for improved forecasting, monitoring and management of water supplies and to tackle the problem of too much, too little or too polluted water. We cannot manage what we do not measure. Improved hydrological monitoring and forecasting are vital to underpin effective water management policies and flood and drought early warning services."
"We feel the effects of climate change mostly through water: more floods, more droughts, more pollution. Just like viruses, these climate and water-related shocks respect no natural boundaries," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. "The world needs to demonstrate the same unity and commitment to climate action and cutting greenhouse gas emissions as to containing the Coronavirus pandemic."
Climate change is impacting snow cover and the "water towers of the world" – the snow and ice on mountains that feed fresh water supplies. In many parts of the world, seasonal rainfall patterns are becoming more erratic, affecting agriculture and food security and the livelihoods of millions of people. The WMO-coordinated Statement on the State of the Global Climate 2019 reported that over 6.7 million new internal disaster displacements were recorded from January and June 2019, triggered by floods and tropical cyclones in Southeast Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean. This number was forecast to reach close to 22 million in total for 2019, up from 17.2 million in 2018. Of all natural hazards, floods and storms contributed most to displacement.
Climate and water data underpin the management of surface-water supplies and disaster risk reduction. These include calculations of the frequency and duration of heavy rainfall, the probable maximum precipitation and flood forecasting. And yet, at a time when it is needed more than ever before, the capacity to forecast, monitor and manage water is fragmented and inadequate.
"It is worrying to see that Sustainable Development Goal 6, which focuses on clean water and sanitation, is so far off track now," said Mr. Taalas. Last year, the UN General Assembly decided that implementation must be sped up. WMO is working with partners to deliver this through a water and climate coalition that focuses on finances, data and information, governance, capacity development, and innovation.
WMO is committed to eight long-term ambitions related to water:
- No one is surprised by a flood
- Everyone is prepared for drought
- Hydro-climate and meteorological data support the food security agenda
- High-quality data supports science
- Science provides a sound basis for operational hydrology
- We have a thorough knowledge of the water resources of our world
- Sustainable development is supported by information covering the full hydrological cycle
- Water quality is known
A joint World Water Day (22 March) and World Meteorological Day celebration was planned at WMO headquarters, but given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the event was canceled. Where possible, some Members marked the event using the materials provided by WMO on its dedicated World Meteorological Day website while others postponed their celebrations.