Scotland is abundant in natural resources, amongst which is its fresh water. Today, March 22nd 2022, it is World Water Day, and it is far too easy in a land so rich in fresh water to take that for granted.
Around the world many countries are facing successive years of drought as climate change continues apace. Somalia has experienced three major drought crises in the past decade; in 2011/12, 2016/2017, and now in 2021/22.
A Save the Children assessment conducted in November 2021, and covering 15 of Somalia’s 18 regions, found the majority of families were now going without meals on a regular basis. Nearly 60% of assessed households reported at least one person in their family had lost their source of income – largely due to the wholescale death of livestock – and over one third of households included at least one person going without food over a 24 hour period.Save The Children
Save the Children is working to help affected communities in Somalia to cope with the immediate humanitarian effects of drought by providing emergency water supplies, treating children who are malnourished, supporting education systems so that children do not miss vital learning while displaced by drought, running health facilities, and providing cash and livelihood support to the most vulnerable.
UNICEF report that: The Horn of Africa is currently facing the third consecutive below-average rainfall season since late 2020 due to La Niña conditions, which is aggravating the current water crisis and ongoing drought in four countries. Up to 20 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Eritrea will need water and food assistance through mid-2022 due to drought, insecurity, economic challenges, and conflict.
Drought also brings with it the threat of wildfires devastating vast areas of land, forests and killing people and wildlife.
“The risk of wildfires increases in extremely dry conditions, such as drought, and during high winds. Wildfires can disrupt transportation, communications, power and gas services, and water supply. They also lead to a deterioration of the air quality, and loss of property, crops, resources, animals and people.” WHO
The latest IPCC report was a ‘dire warning about the consequences of inaction’. Dire Warning About the Consequences of Inaction on Climate Change
It highlights that increased heatwaves, droughts and floods are already exceeding plants’ and animals’ tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on Small Islands and in the Arctic.
This year’s World Water Day is focussing on groundwater:
- Groundwater is invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere.
- Out of sight, under our feet, groundwater is a hidden treasure that enriches our lives.
- Almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater.
- As climate change gets worse, groundwater will become more and more critical.
- We need to work together to sustainably manage this precious resource.
- Groundwater may be out of sight, but it must not be out of mind.
The potential threats to the quality of groundwater are natural (geogenic) contamination and contaminant sources from land use and other human activities (anthropogenic contamination). In North America and Europe, nitrates and pesticides represent a big threat to groundwater quality: 20% of European Union (EU) groundwater bodies exceeds EU standards on good water quality due to agricultural pollution.
The Scottish Government has a vision of Scotland as a Hydro Nation. The Hydro Nation Annual Report 2021 states that Scotland’s water sector, including Scottish Water, is worth an estimated £1.7 billion to the Scottish Economy.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) through the Hydro Nation International Centre offers institutional support and capacity building to Malawi’s National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) and Malawi Environment Protection Agency (MEPA). Additional expertise comes from the James Hutton Institute (JHI), Hydro Nation Scholars and Water Witness International (WWI) in Scotland, and BASEflow and BAWI consultants in Malawi.
Scotland has much expertise in the management and study of water resources and a special relationship with the nation of Malawi. Within its limits as a devolved part of the UK it is helping to support and deliver change.