By Sharon Atieno

Though Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six calls for availability and management of water and sanitation for all, countries are still lagging behind in achieving this goal, a new report reveals.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, despite progress in level of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) implementation, 107 countries remain off track to hit the goal of sustainably managing their water resources by 2030.

In Africa, IWRM implementation from 51 countries shows that 27 countries have inadequate capacity to effectively implement most IWRM elements, and many activities are undertaken on an ad hoc basis with unsustainable financing.

The report notes that globally, the number of people with inadequate access to water will reach five billion by 2050, up from 3.6 billion in 2018.

Further, human-and naturally -induced stressors like population growth, urbanization, decreasing freshwater availability and extreme weather events are increasingly adding pressure on water resources.

Climate change, the report notes is exacerbating the situation. “An increase in drought frequency or severity, or both, can threaten already water-scarce regions and create new, or expand existing, regions suffering from water scarcity,” the report reads.

The report adds that significant gaps remain in forecasting, with end-to-end riverine flood forecasting and warning systems absent or inadequate in 34% of WMO Members that provided data. Only 44% of Members’ existing systems reach more than two-thirds of the population at risk.

End-to-end drought forecasting and warning systems are lacking or inadequate in 54% of WMO Members that provided data – with only 27% of Members’ existing systems reaching more than two-thirds of the population at risk.

Despite Africa being the worst affected region with drought disasters, the report observes that 15 WMO Africa region Members out of the 22 providing data have an inadequate end-to-end drought forecasting/warning services in Africa and, only four Members are providing those services at a full/ advanced level capacity.

Though water is an adaptation priority in 79% of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) made by countries to the Paris Agreement, data from 101 WMO members show that almost 60% national meteorological and hydrological services lack the full capacities needed to provide climate services for water.

Among the report’s recommendations is the need to invest in IWRM as a solution to better manage water stress, especially in least developed countries (LDCs) and small island states (SIDs). IWRM is vital to achieving long-term social, economic and environmental well-being, the report notes.

To address the clear gaps in early warning systems and forecasting worldwide, but especially in LDCs in Africa and Asia, for droughts and floods respectively, the WMO report calls for increased investment to establish and strengthen end-to-end warning and forecasting systems, enhance preparedness and build systems capacity for dissemination and communication of early warnings.

Other key recommendations include Fill the capacity gap in collecting data for basic hydrological variables which underpin climate services and early warning systems, and improving interaction among national level stakeholders to co-develop and operationalize climate services with information users to better support adaptation in the water sector.