Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Global Picture

The view across Lake Champlain from the old Hotel Champlain at Bluff Point on the Clinton Community College campus. Photo by Zachary Matson

I spend most of my time focused on the details of Adirondack water issues – a region abundant with high-quality water and highly protected resources. It still faces huge challenges and is important for its own sake and in a global context.

When it comes to that global context, though, there is a much bigger picture. Much bigger.

The United Nations last month held its first water-focused conference since 1977 and issued 2023 United National World Water Development Report, which highlighted how far behind the world is in reaching benchmarks on the way to a goal of ensuring the human right to clean water and sanitation.

Here are some bullet points from the report that stood out to me:

  • Water use has increased globally by about 1% a year for the last 40 years and is expected to rise at that pace through 2050.

  • Water – either too much from floods or not enough in droughts – is the primary way people around the world will experience climate change, accounting for 75% of all natural disasters.

  • Around 10% of the global population lives in countries with high or critical water scarcity.

  • Worldwide about 2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water services and 3.6 billion people do not have access to managed sanitation.

  • Studies estimate that more than 80% of the world’s natural wetland areas have been lost since the pre-industrial era.

  • The World Bank projects that some regions of the world could lose up to 6% of their GDP by 2050 due to water-related impacts to agriculture and public health.

  • Between 2000 and 2019, floods caused estimated damages of $650 billion, impacted 1.65 billion people and killed 100,000 people.

In local news… I interviewed Donald Canestrari, who took over about a year ago as head of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s dam safety division.

Canestrari oversees a team of about 10 engineers charged with ensuring the safety of the state’s dam stock, estimated at over 7,000 across New York. We discussed his background; the state of compliance with safety regulations adopted in 2009; whether the state would publish flood inundation maps; and if he has enough staff to do the job.

The view across Lake Champlain from the old Hotel Champlain at Bluff Point on the Clinton Community College campus. Photo by Zachary Matson

This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.


2 Responses

  1. Such a critical issue for all of us now and going forward. Thank you for addressing it and informing us of the facts.

  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    The bullet points I read with great dissatisfaction Zachary, especially so because one could clearly see that the old way of us humans doing our business is still going along as it always does, without the least hint of changing course. Worse, we seem to be picking up speed on that course!

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