The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said that most of the globe was drier than normal in 2021, with “cascading effects on economies, ecosystems and our daily lives”.
According to the agency’s first report on global water resources released on Tuesday, areas that were unusually dry included South America’s Rio de la Plata area, where persistent drought has affected the region since 2019.
In Africa, major rivers such as the Niger, Volta, Nile, and Congo had below-average water flow in 2021. The same trend was observed in rivers in parts of Russia, West Siberia, and in Central Asia.
On the other hand, there were above-normal river volumes in some North American basins, the North Amazon and South Africa, as well as in China’s Amur river basin, and northern India.
In Africa, rivers such as the Niger, Volta, Nile, and Congo had below-normal discharge in 2021, along with parts of Russia, West Siberia, and in Central Asia.
WMO said that 3.6 billion people have inadequate access to water at least one month per year and that this is expected to increase to more than five billion by 2050.
“The impacts of climate change are often felt through water – more intense and frequent droughts, more extreme flooding, more erratic seasonal rainfall and accelerated melting of glaciers – with cascading effects on economies, ecosystems and all aspects of our daily lives”, said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“And yet, there is insufficient understanding of changes in the distribution, quantity, and quality of freshwater resources”.
The State of Global Water Resources report “aims to fill that knowledge gap and provide a concise overview of water availability in different parts of the world”, he added.
“This will inform climate adaptation and mitigation investments as well as the United Nations campaign to provide universal access in the next five years to early warnings of hazards such as floods and droughts”.