She emphasized that fresh water is essential to human life. “Without water, there is no growth, no food and no life on earth,” she said. “So essentially water is life!”
More and more countries are predicted to face water stress, Phiri said.
“The unsustainable use of water resources is the main cause of water stress,” she said. “Climate change is putting additional pressure on water resources by impacting the water cycle.”
Global water use has increased over the past 100 years and continues to grow steadily, Phiri further noted. “Combined with a more erratic and uncertain supply, climate change will aggravate the situation of currently water-stressed regions, and generate water stress in regions where water resources are still abundant today,” she said. “About 90 percent of natural disasters are water-related.”
Water stress already affects every continent of our planet, Phiri further noted. “The degradation of ecosystems will not only lead to biodiversity loss, but also affect the provision of water-related ecosystem services, such as water purification, carbon capture and storage, and natural flood protection, as well as the provision of water for agriculture, fisheries, and recreation,” she said.
Dinesh Suna, coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network, spoke on “Water for peace and cooperation.”
He reflected on how water has the potential to cause conflict between countries. “Historically, civilizations grew around water bodies and rivers for the simple fact that humans thrived when their water needs were met,” he said. “Historically we have also learnt that communities fought over water.”
Suna noted that, today, about 150 water-related treaties are signed by countries. “Water is therefore a cause of conflict,” he said. “ So can we then change the narratives that water can be used for peace and cooperation?”