The WMO has released a comprehensive report, “State of Global Water Resources 2022,” which paints a concerning picture of the world’s freshwater resources. The report, which integrates field observations, satellite data, and modeling, reveals a hydrological cycle thrown off balance by rising temperatures and environmental degradation.
Glaciers and ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, contributing to a water cycle that is both accelerated and disrupted. A warmer atmosphere, capable of holding more moisture, leads to heavier precipitation and flooding, while increased evaporation and drier soils result in more intense droughts. This has led to a stark increase in hydrological disasters, with significant implications for human health, safety, and economic stability.
The report underscores the uneven distribution of these impacts. For example, Europe faced increased evapotranspiration and decreased soil moisture during the summer, contributing to drought conditions that affected major rivers like the Danube and Rhine and even disrupted nuclear power production in France. Similarly, severe droughts have impacted the United States, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and South America’s La Plata Basin.
In Asia, the Yangtze river basin in China experienced a severe drought, while Pakistan’s Indus river basin was hit by extreme floods, leading to widespread displacement and loss of life. Africa presents a contrasting picture, with the Horn of Africa grappling with drought affecting millions, while regions like the Niger basin and coastal South Africa experienced above-average discharge and major floods.
The WMO report also highlights the critical role of glaciers as indicators of climate change. The Swiss Alps, for instance, have lost a significant portion of their mass in just two years, raising flood risks and threatening long-term water security for millions. The report emphasizes that over 70% of global water withdrawals are for food production, linking water scarcity directly to food security.
The WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, has called for a concerted effort to improve data sharing, enhance early warning systems, and foster coordinated water management policies. The report serves as a clarion call for integrated action that addresses the nexus of climate change and water resource management.