years after the Rio Summit of 1992, Vital Water Graphics focuses
on the critical issues of water quantity, quality and availability
- issues that are vital to the quality of life on Earth. The assessment
of global water resources and the provision of early warnings on
water issues are enshrined in the mandate, vision and mission of
the United Nations Environment Programme. UNEP, UN agencies, and
collaborating centres and partners monitor and analyse water resources
on a global scale. This partnership enables a wider involvement
in assessing the status of the implementation of Chapters 17 and
18 of Agenda 21, which address coastal and marine waters and freshwater,
from assessment activities over the past two decades, which are
used to establish present and future water trends, reveal that:
resources are unevenly distributed, with much of the water located
far from human populations. Many of the world's largest river
basins run through thinly populated regions. There are an estimated
263 major international river basins in the world, covering ~231
059 898 km2 or 45.3% of the Earth's land surface area (excluding
2. Groundwater represents about 90% of the world's readily available
freshwater resources, and some 1.5 billion people depend upon
groundwater for their drinking water.
3. Agricultural water use accounts for about 75% of total global
consumption, mainly through crop irrigation, while industrial
use accounts for about 20%, and the remaining 5% is used for domestic
4. It is estimated that two out of every three people will live
in water-stressed areas by the year 2025. In Africa alone, it
is estimated that 25 countries will be experiencing water stress
(below 1,700 m3 per capita per year) by 2025. Today, 450 million
people in 29 countries suffer from water shortages.
5. Clean water supplies and sanitation remain major problems in
many parts of the world, with 20% of the global population lacking
access to safe drinking water. Water-borne diseases from faecal
pollution of surface waters continue to be a major cause of illness
in developing countries. Polluted water is estimated to affect
the health of 1.2 billion people, and contributes to the death
of 15 million children annually.
A wide variety
of human activities also affects the coastal and marine environment.
Population pressures, increasing demands for space and resources,
and poor economic performances can all undermine the sustainable
use of our oceans and coastal areas. Serious problems affecting
the quality and use of these ecosystems include:
and destruction of habitats and ecosystems. Estimates show that
almost 50% of the world's coasts are threatened by development-related
2. Severe eutrophication has been discovered in several enclosed
or semi-enclosed seas. It is estimated that about 80% of marine
pollution originates from land-based sources and activities.
3. In marine fisheries, most areas are producing significantly
lower yields than in the past. Substantial increases are never
again likely to be recorded for global fish catches. In contrast,
inland and marine aquaculture production is increasing and now
contributes 30% of the total global fish yield.
4. Impacts of climate change may include a significant rise in
the level of the world's oceans. This will cause some low-lying
coastal areas to become completely submerged, and increase human
vulnerability in other areas. Because they are highly dependent
upon marine resources, small island developing states (SIDS) are
especially vulnerable, due to both the effects of sea level rise
and to changes in marine ecosystems.
UNEP is involved
in promoting Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) through a broad
variety of initiatives, as a way of resolving current and future
problems at a local/ecosystem-based level. Through its different
assessment activities, UNEP focuses on highlighting key areas to
promote policy recommendations.