On November 29 in Geneva, the World Meteorological Organization(WMO) released its first report on the state of the world’s water resources, with a focus on the relationship between them and climate change.

The report focuses on three main areas:

  • flow, the volume of water flowing through a riverbed at any time;
  • Water retention and resources – all the water on and under the land surface;
  • cryosphere (frozen water).

“The effects of climate change are often felt through water – more intense and more frequent droughts, more extreme flooding, more erratic seasonal precipitation and accelerated glacier melt – with cascading effects on economies, ecosystems and all aspects of our daily lives. Yet there is insufficient understanding of changes in the distribution, quantity and quality of freshwater resources.” – WMO secretary general, prof. Petteri Taalas. “The State of Global Water Resources report aims to fill this knowledge gap and provide a concise overview of water availability in different parts of the world. This will affect investments in adaptation and mitigation, as well as the UN’s campaign to ensure universal access over the next five years to early warnings of risks such as floods and droughts.”

World water resources – basic findings of the report

The effects of climate change often affect water. A report on the state of the world’s water resources shows how large areas of the planet recorded drier-than-normal conditions in 2021. (compared to the average from 2002 to 2020). Certainly these areas include the Rio de la Plata area in South America, where starting in 2019. persistent drought continues. In Africa, major rivers such as the Niger, Volta, Nile and Congo reached 2021. Below-average water levels. The same trend was observed in the rivers of parts of Russia, mainly in the West Siberian and Central Asian parts.

On the other hand, water levels were above normal in some river basins in North America, the northern Amazon and South Africa, as well as the Amur River basin in China and northern India. Only about a third of the areas analyzed were in line with the average of the past 30 years.

China, northern India, Western Europe and countries affected by tropical cyclones such as Mozambique, the Philippines and Indonesia have experienced the worst flooding.

Below-average rainfall for several years in a row has been recorded in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

In addition to fluctuations in river flow, the report outlines the overall retention of water on earth. Areas on the west coast of the United States, central South America and Patagonia, North Africa and Madagascar, Central Asia and the Middle East, Pakistan and northern India were classified below the norm. Above normal, meanwhile, in Central Africa, the northern part of South America, and especially in the Amazon basin and northern China.

The report provides a brief overview of changes in the cryosphere in relation to water resources.
The cryosphere is the largest natural reservoir of fresh water in the world. The mountains are the source of rivers and fresh water supplies for some 1.9 billion people. Changes in water resources therefore affect food security, human health and the entire ecosystem.

Conclusions of the report

The first State of the World’s Water Resources report can be described as a “pilot edition,” as only 34 of 192 member states have designated national focal points to exchange data with the WMO for the report. Despite this, the document provides a number of important conclusions and recommendations:

  • lacks sufficient understanding of changes in the distribution, quantity and quality of freshwater resources;
  • there is a need to provide a concise overview of water availability in different parts of the world;
  • there is a need to develop comprehensive drought and flood early warning systems;
  • lacks available and verified hydrological data;
  • long-term projections of changes in glacier runoff are key inputs to adaptation decisions.

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