Present and future problems of water in developing countries:
The water crisis hits the developing countries the most. The challenge of providing safe water to more than 1 billion people – almost all of them living in developing countries and countries in transition – is enormous itself – and it is additionally confronted with the fact that aid to the water sector is declining since the end of the 1990s. Access to these basic services is not high enough on the agenda to meet the Millennium development goals.
The urban areas and small towns where almost all population growth will take place are hot spots since even in the past the provision of water supply and sanitation services could not keep pace with growing demand as well as the insufficient sanitation services and missing wastewater treatment impact the
quality of the anyway stressed and limited ground- and surface water resources.
The second basket of problems arises from agriculture, which in developing countries consumes up to 90% of water, leading increasingly to competition between domestic, agricultural and industrial water users and between upstream and downstream users. Since irrigation is often characterised by strong inefficiency this wastage of resources more than the lack of renewable water resources will force countries to balance their water demand virtually through food imports from the world market.
Land use patterns – in developing countries often characterised by deforestation, overgrazing and erosion – impact the functionality of the catchments and can severely affect the water cycle leading to high runoff after heavy rainfalls and early dry up of wells and rivers.
Although addressing and overcoming these challenges needs financial resources and technical know-how transfer, most important are social and political innovations: first, introducing the river basin (on the regional, national and international level) as the most relevant area to manage water resources. Second, the development of the idea of hydro solidarity in sharing this scarce resource through co-ordination and integration of all relevant stakeholders in water use planning and protection of water bodies.