World Water Day 2021

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Statement by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

All of our planet’s inhabitants – humanity, and all wildlife species – require water to survive. We learn very young that life cannot exist without water. Yet over 2 billion people still lack access to safe water today. This year’s World Water Day celebrates the theme ‘Valuing water.’ This fundamental need has enormous and complex value for our societies, households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the sustainability of our environment.

Global water use has increased sixfold over the past 100 years, driven by intensive agriculture and population growth. The demand for water just in food production may reach 13 trillion cubic metres annually by 2050 – 3.5 times greater than the total human use today.

The importance of water for land is obvious: humanity’s relentless production and consumption relies heavily on water use and is a prime cause of desertification and land degradation.

In a warming world beset by weather extremes, droughts will become more common, more intense, and more prolonged in many places – including places already at the margins of habitability. Drought and desertification are not just problems for the global South. We already see impacts, and land degradation, in highly productive and populated parts of the developed world – including California, Spain and Australia.

Land degradation and desertification reduce evapotranspiration, disrupting regional rainfall patterns. In contrast, healthy land promotes consistent seasonal and annual rainfall and aids flood mitigation, soil health and aquifer recharge, helping to bring back landscapes from the brink.

The UNCCD’s Drought Initiative is working globally to support our Parties to develop drought preparedness systems, spearheading regional efforts to reduce drought vulnerability and risk. Our Drought toolbox provides resources to support actions that aim to boost the resilience of people and ecosystems.

Land restoration is a vital ally to World Water Day. As we celebrate today, let’s remember that we must value water and land equally as part of the same challenge – to build a better, more equal, healthier planet post COVID-19.