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Saturday, 23 October 2021
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Time’s ticking on water crisis

INTERNATIONAL charity WaterAid has created a thought-provoking installation on the bank of the Thames to highlight how climate change is threatening drinking water supplies around the world.

The arresting 3.5-metre high hourglass in Potters Field in London is drawing attention to the shocking fact that every second, one more person around the world is forced into water scarcity, where water access could be limited due to increased demand. 

The striking scene comes ahead of the G7 Finance Ministers meeting on 28 May, followed by the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June, where WaterAid will be calling for the UK Government to push for more support to help communities impacted by the climate crisis and to show global leadership by ensuring at least one-third of its committed international climate finance goes to locally-led adaptation projects.

Extreme weather events have a huge impact across the world, and those in poorer countries are hardest hit. Droughts dry up water sources like springs and wells, while rising sea levels and flooding contaminate poorly protected water supplies, with potentially devastating consequences.

It is making life harder for the 785 million people already living without clean water close to home and struggling to meet their basic needs, and it will make water perilously scarce for many more. A staggering 3.6 billion people lack access to sufficient water at least one month a year, and unless communities are helped to adapt to the impact of climate change, that figure could rise to more than 5 billion by 2050 – over half of the predicted global population. 

Having a reliable source of clean water means families can protect themselves from the impacts of climate change, yet some of the most climate-vulnerable countries only receive $1 per person per year for investment in water. Only 5% of total global climate funding is spent on helping countries adapt to their changing climate, and that money is not targeted at the communities most vulnerable to climate change. This is completely inadequate to the growing crisis.

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid’s Chief Executive Officer, said: 

“Time is running out to crack the climate crisis – a crisis that is already upon us, whether through flooding in the UK, bushfires in Australia, or sea level rises in coastal areas. In the 30 minutes it takes for the sand to run through our hourglass, water scarcity will become a reality for a staggering 2,292 more people. It is a stark reminder that climate change is happening, and those who have done the least to course it are feeling its effects first and most severely.  

“A reliable source of clean water is one of the first lines of defence against the impact of the climate crisis. It saves lives, brings certainty, improves education, and enables progress. We want to see leadership from the British Government in making sure everyone everywhere has a reliable source of clean water so they can stay safe and healthy, whatever the future holds.” 

With the UK hosting the G7 Leaders’ Summit in early June and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, this year presents a momentous occasion for the British Government to lead the way in helping the world’s poorest communities adapt to climate change. 

Time's ticking on water crisis
Mubarak lifts his jerry cans after collecting water from the pond in Kinga community, Kwaja village, Adamawa. Photograph credit: WaterAid/Etinosa Yvonne

However, just last month, the UK government announced it will cut overseas aid by more than £4bn this financial year, with evidence suggesting savage cuts to funding for overseas water and sanitation projects of up to 80%, having a devastating effect on the world’s poorest communities. WaterAid has joined other charities in publicly condemning these cuts, which have been said to undermine the UK’s credibility in tackling global issues ahead of the G7 summit and COP26. 

Through the hourglass installation, WaterAid is highlighting the importance of clean water in transforming lives and livelihoods and keeping families safe and healthy for generations to come. 

To find out more about WaterAid’s Climate Change work, please visit: https://www.wateraid.org/uk/the-crisis/water/climate-change. 

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