2013 is the UN International Year of Water Cooperation

12 Jun 2013

Its objective is to raise awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services. The Year will highlight the history of successful water cooperation initiatives, as well as identify burning issues on water education, water diplomacy, transboundary water management, financing cooperation, national/ international legal frameworks, and the linkages with the Millennium Development Goals. It also will provide an opportunity to capitalize on the momentum created at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), and to support the formulation of new objectives that will contribute towards developing water resources that are truly sustainable.

Why does the UN attach so much importance to water and water cooperation? • Water is essential for life. Water covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface and makes up about 70% of our body mass. There is no substitute for water. However, water resources on the planet are limited, and unevenly distributed in time and space. Demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy the needs of a growing world population, now at over seven billion people, for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses. Additional pressure related to rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change also threatens the resource. • The problem is that less than 1% of the water on the planet is readily available for drinking. Most of the water on Earth, 97%, is salt water stored in the oceans; only 3% is fresh water. Of all of the fresh water on Earth, 68% is locked up in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland, 30% is in the ground and only 0.3% is contained in surface waters such as lakes and rivers. Some facts to consider: • 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet. 780 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases. Various estimates indicate that, based on business as usual, ~3.5 planet Earths would be needed to sustain a global population achieving the current lifestyle of the average European or North American. • Globally nearly two in ten people have no source of safe drinking water. Every year millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation, and hygiene. Water scarcity, poor water quality, and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices, and educational opportunities for poor families across the world. • Water-related natural disasters such as floods, tropical storms and tsunamis exact a heavy toll in human life and suffering. And all too regularly, drought afflicts some of the world's poorest countries, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition. One might ask “Is clean water an issue for Ukraine at all? After all, we have the Dnipro - one of the largest rivers in Europe”. • At the first glance, Ukraine is blessed with abundant freshwater resources, there are 30,000 rivers traversing its territory, the longest of which, such as the Dnipro, Pivdenny Bug and Dnister, span hundreds of kilometers. • However, years of industrialization and rapid development of hydroelectric power have left a heavy footprint on Dnipro.

Today Dnipro is not a river per se, it is rather a cascade of lake-type water reservoirs that are on average fivemeter deep and have a different ecosystem that is characterized by the low level of water exchange and self-purification capacity. This leads to overheating of the Dnipro’s water down to the bottom, blooming of water, proliferation of cyanobacteria and mass fish mortality. • Moreover, today there are thousands of plants and factories that discharge waste water into Dnipro. Most of them can’t afford water treatment equipment and discharge untreated waste water. • As you might know, in most Ukrainian cities you can’t drink the tap water - and if you drive only 30 kilometers outside Kyiv you will find communities that don’t have running water in their homes. A lot of work still has to be done to ensure access to clean water in thousands of schools, kindergartens, hospitals and homes. • According to WHO, poor water quality poses a health hazard for 25% of Ukrainians that means every fourth Ukrainian harms his or her health though drinking low-quality water. Today centralized water supply services are available in only 22% of rural settlements in Ukraine. In 102 municipalities/villages/ settlements water is not available 24 hours a day. 37. 4% of centralized water supply networks are in emergency and worn-out condition. • Almost 4.6 million Ukrainians in 261 settlements/ villages/ municipalities located in all regions of Ukraine receive water from local sources which does not meet drinking water standards of water hardness, chlorides, residue on evaporation, sulphates, fluorine, total iron, nitrates and manganese. • Technological progress is a way out of poverty but when it is done in unsustainable way that doesn’t take into account environmental, socio-economic and social aspects it can lead to undesirable implications. It is high time for Ukraine and the world to embrace sustainable development approach that implies development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. UNDP’s role • UNDP partners with Ukrainian Government, private sector and civil society to implement a number of successful water projects which focus on rehabilitating natural water springs, developing a comprehensive Monitoring framework of Dnipro’s ecological status, helping to elaborate better environmental legislation, introducing modern water purification technologies to plants and factories so that the water they discharge into the rivers is not harmful, helping local communities to restore water networks and teaching children to be environmentally conscious and savvy. • For example, through our Local Development projects we supported more than a thousand local community projects aimed at improving water supply and sanitation for 400 thousand people. These included reconstruction of hot and cold water supply and sewage system pipelines in houses, construction of street water supply pipelines, restoring community springs and wells as well as installation of drinking water fountains at schools. • Our Dnipro Basin Environment Project pilots Cleaner Production Technologies for the small/medium-sized enterprises, developed a comprehensive Monitoring of Dnipro’s ecological status, helps to introduce better environmental legislation and facilitates international cooperation among scientists, officials and experts from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus aimed at integral Dnipro Management .

The project helps Ukrainian companies to implement low-cost cleaner production measures that are both affordable, energy efficient and widely-used in developed countries. Our work and partnership for sustainable planet, clean and accessible water and better lives will continue. And it is our hope that you as journalists will play a particularly crucial role in bringing sustainable development and clean water at the very top of international community and national agendas. After all, it takes more than governments to build sustainable future– partnerships among people, community groups, journalists and media organizations, business and academia are needed.