World Water Day: Joint Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.

Today, on the occasion of World Water Day and the UN Water Conference, we call for a bold global water action to protect the global sources and supply of water. 

Now more than ever, the world is facing a water stress crisis due to climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. This is not only a particularly critical challenge for 40% of the world population that lives in areas affected, but it is vital for us all. 2022 saw the worst drought in 500 years and this trend is expected to continue. Two billion people in the world have no access to safe water, while almost half of the global population – 3.6 billion people – lack safe sanitation. Access to safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. The EU continues to support universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene services through its development cooperation and humanitarian assistance. 

The EU is working hard to increase the access to water, sanitation and hygiene worldwide. From 2014-2020, the EU invested €3.7 billion for this, with €1.7 billion disbursed in Africa. By 2030, the EU targets to support the access of 70 million people to an improved drinking water source and/or sanitation facility. We will also seek to mobilise the private sector with innovative financing.

Team Europe is making over €1.1 billion available for transboundary water cooperation working on improved governance, knowledge, and investments with over 47 countries, in 18 major transboundary water basins.

Water stress is also a driver of geopolitical instability and triggers conflicts. Sustainable management of water resources and transboundary cooperation are powerful tools for conflict prevention as proven by the EU’s work and experience in this area.

The UN Water Conference must be the start of a new global engagement to increase our collective resilience to water stress. 

In doing this, we must work with partners and tackle a range of old and new pollutants affecting the quality of surface and groundwaters. Some are extremely persistent even to the most advanced wastewater treatment.

As part of the European Green Deal, pollution is now addressed at source and through ambitious climate policies, we work towards limiting the occurrence and impact of droughts. We need to value water more, and manage it in an integrated way, across boundaries. The broken water cycle should be fixed by increasing the natural water retention capacity of ecosystems: nurturing our soils, increasing forests, preserving and restoring wetlands.

The world needs a bold water action agenda for the health and prosperity of people and the planet. We cannot afford to be complacent, and we are ready to do our part to create a water resilient world.

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