Widespread water scarcity is now an outcome of the connections and linkages between the hydrological cycle, unsustainable agriculture, and energy systems. At a local level, water is contested and plays a part in social conflicts and human migration decisions, against this backdrop of complex interlinkages. At a global level, the water cycle integrates the impacts of human activities, population growth and climate change. The deterioration of water quality across regions and continents threatens the health of people and ecosystems, while climate change is accelerating the water cycle and causing increased impacts on communities through storms, floods and droughts, extreme wildfires and landslides, as well as increasing dust and sandstorms in the most arid areas. Hence water, in addition to being a public good, is now becoming a risk multiplier for the health of people and of the planet.
However, the realization of SDG 6 (water) targets can be achieved through engaging public, private and non-governmental sectors, civil society and local actors, and by mutual reinforcement or trade-offs that also consider other interlinked SDG goals focused on poverty eradication (SDG 1), food security (SDG 2), health (SDG 3), gender equity (SDG 5), sustainable cities (SDG 11) and protection of biodiversity (SDGs 14 and 15).
Multinational environmental agreements (MEAs) governing water resources and water-related ecosystem management and climate change can support the embedding of integrated water resources management in the rules of law – through national and local legislation.
Effective, efficient and transparent water resources governance is required that includes improved collaboration and coordination between governments, technical institutions, nongovernmental organizations and civil society towards improved monitoring and data quality, culminating in better hydrological and hydrogeological services, as discussed in the recent WMO conference held in May 2018 (World Meteorological Organization 2018). Increased investment in the scope and rigor of standardized water data is essential to improve policy and governance for sound water management.