NEW YORK • About four billion people experience severe water shortages for at least one month a year and around 1.6 billion people - almost a quarter of the world's population - have problems accessing a clean and safe water supply, according to the United Nations.
While the UN's Sustainable Development Goals call for water and sanitation for all by 2030, the world body says water scarcity is increasing and more than half the world's population will be living in water-stressed regions by 2050.
UN General Assembly president Volkan Bozkir said last Thursday that the lack of drinking water is a global moral failure that has devastating consequences for humanity.
"If I may be candid: It is a moral failure that we live in a world with such high levels of technical innovation and success, but we continue to allow billions of people to exist without clean drinking water or the basic tools to wash their hands," he told a high-level meeting to promote the implementation of the water-related goals and targets of the 2030 agenda.
"And make no mistake, this is a global failure that has far-reaching implications for all of us."
His comments came ahead of the UN's World Water Day today, which has been held every year since 1993.
Dr Julia Brown, a human geographer specialising in environment and development at the University of Portsmouth, said many countries with water-intensive agriculture and industry lacked adequate safe drinking water.
"When we buy products and buy food and clothing, we don't always appreciate that we're actually importing somebody else's water, and often those countries where we're importing water from, like in avocados or our denim jeans, they're actually very water-scarce countries," she told Reuters.
Dr Brown added that, while extending access to water was important, maintaining that access in some of the poorest parts of the world was often overlooked.
"Non-governmental organisations like to have their photographs taken with a shiny new hand pump... then they walk away and it's handed over to communities to raise the funds to maintain these systems, to make sure that they're repaired. And if they're not?" she said. "The research indicates, at any one time, one-third of hand pumps across sub-Saharan Africa are broken."
Mr Bozkir called on the global community to provide greater financial and capacity-building support for water-and sanitation-related activities. Engagement of stakeholders from different sectors, ranging from civil society to academia to the private sector, is also crucial, he said.
Landmarks participating in City Turns Blue initiative in Singapore for the first time:
1. Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant
2. Mount Faber
3. One Marina Boulevard
4. Orchard Gateway
5. Read Bridge
6. Sentosa Golf Club
7. Science Centre Singapore
8. Shopee Building
9. Singapore Sports Hub
10. Wisma Atria