Security, is an essential component of the human race, and even more important in the lives of the super powers in society. Using the President of America as an example, if not close to right, the security measures put in place to protect him, are sufficient to protect the whole of Africa. What I am trying to point out is that things that are very important and valuable are secured so that they are not lost.
Water is one of the basic necessities of life and without argument the second to air in terms of human survival. This positions water in a valuable and important locus. Therefore, associating security with water globally, what do we see or hear? The world’s water resources have come under threat due to climate change and lots of people have suffered due to this circumstance. For instance, in Ethiopia, in the past twenty years, water shortage have been a major hindrance to the country’s development. Droughts have affected several areas of the country causing wells, ponds, streams, rivers and lakes to become extremely shallow or dry up completely. In 2015, in Ghana, an average of 2 to 3 hours rainfall caused flooding, which led to the death of about 150 people. These examples point out the two sides of the threats climate change poses to water security globally. According to United Nations Environmental Programme, about 1,100 million people do not have access to clean drinking water, and about 5 million deaths are caused every year due to contaminated water sources, with the majority of these in sub-Saharan Africa.
Human and natural activities affect practically all segments of the water cycle, usually negatively. Over time, activities such as deforestation, real estate, agriculture, etc., have negative impacts on the water sequence including evapo-transpiration, rainfall pattern, groundwater table and sea level. Also, human activities influence cloud formation through emission of aerosols and their gaseous components into the atmosphere. Key threats to water resources that needs attention include water pollution (the contamination of surface water and groundwater reservoirs with chemicals and microorganisms); water scarcity (the change of run-off regimes and the lowering of the groundwater table); and importantly, global climate change with consequences such as redistribution of precipitation, rising sea levels, and increases in extreme precipitation events .
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC defines climate change as statistically significant variations in climate that persist for a comprehensive period of time, typically decades or longer. It includes shifts in the frequency and magnitude of sporadic weather events as well as the slow continuous rise in global mean surface temperature. Climate, water resources, and socio-economic structures are dependent on each other and therefore a significant change in any one of them brings a change in the other. Evidently, climate change is really negatively affecting many nations that are already facing the issues of improper water resource management.
Obvious or potential effects of climate change on water resources in Africa include: flooding, drought, change in the frequency and distribution of rainfall, drying-up of rivers, melting of glaciers, receding of water bodies, and cyclones among others. In Ghana, dry, dusty harmattan winds and droughts are some of the signs of the impacts of climate change.
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are likely to suffer the most devastating impacts of climate change because of their geographical location, low economic status, less technological and weak institutional capacity to adapt to rapid changes in the environment. And most importantly, their greater dependence on climate-sensitive natural systems such as water and agriculture. The impact of climate change on Africa is a matter of live and death, and understanding and mitigating it is necessity.
Clearly, it is undisputed that the impact of climate change on water resources is nothing to rejoice over and poses a threat to the future. With well-structured strategies and policies these negative impacts can be mitigated. For a fact, no single approach can solve this problem, however, with an integrated approach the problem can be managed efficiently. Below are some of the strategies that can be employed.
Global Concern and Action
The issue of climate change need to be made a priority by the United Nations by formulating policies that support the protection and conservation of water resources. The United Nations has already started doing this and to support their efforts, Non-Governmental Organizations should also contribute to the solution by educating the global community on climate change and best practices that can be employed to minimize its impact on livelihood.
Affordable Technology and Innovation
Technology seems to be increasing globally and is presenting human race with the ease of doing things. Technology and innovations can be employed in ensuring water security. For instance, the abstraction of groundwater using solar-powered pumps, rainwater harvesting and water recycling among others are some of the technologies that are being used. Therefore, funds and training should be set aside for the innovation of new water management technologies.
Institutional, Policy and Capacity Development
To manage the impact of climate change on water security, it is important to develop a strong institutional capacity involving human resource, infrastructure and tools. This can be achieved through the training of more people on water resource management, water quality control and other water related areas, and the provision of the needed equipment. Also the formulation of policies and regulations will be of great benefit to the conservation of water resources. An example is the formulation of policies to regulate small-scale mining in waterbodies.
Water Resource Records and Preparedness
Keeping records on water resources is important for assessing both quality and quantity. This entails the identification of the availability of water from different sources (water supply), the water needs of different users (water demand), and the tools (facilities) to store and/or carry water to the users (Azim, 2008). Using international standards as benchmarks, regular monitoring and assessments would be undertaken to facilitate the planning and effective implementation of water projects. The keeping of records helps to adequately prepare, be alert and predict any disaster that might be looming. This will reduce the vulnerability of the poor communities and empower them to harness their potential for innovative ways to protect these vital resources.
Climate change is happening and its impacts are being felt already, it therefore depends on the whole world to pay attention to it and find sustainable ways to manage it. This is not the concern of one country, kingdom or continent, it demands collective efforts from across the globe to be able to manage the situation properly.
By: Jacob K. Amengor (Water & Sanitation Expert and ThreesixtyGH Writer)