The hydrological cycle is spinning out of balance as a result of climate change and human activity, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that offers an extensive assessment of global water resources. Destructive droughts and heavy rains are causing major damage, while melting snow and glaciers heighten flood risks and endanger long-term water security, WMO said.

The UN weather agency’s State of Global Water Resources 2022 report emphasizes the need to better understand freshwater resources and urges a fundamental policy shift. It calls for enhanced monitoring, data sharing, cross-border cooperation, and increased investments to manage extreme conditions effectively. “This WMO report offers a comprehensive, and consistent overview of water resources worldwide, highlighting the influence of climate, environmental, and societal changes,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General.

Substantiated by field observations, satellite-based remote sensing, and numerical modelling to evaluate global water resources, the WMO State of Global Water Resources 2022 report contains in-depth data on key hydrological factors like groundwater, evaporation, streamflow, terrestrial water storage, soil moisture, cryosphere (frozen water), reservoir inflows, and hydrological disasters.

Glaciers and ice cover are retreating before our eyes. Rising temperatures have accelerated – and also disrupted – the water cycle. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture causing much heavier precipitation episodes and flooding. And at the opposite extreme, more evaporation, dry soils and more intense droughts, explained the WMO chief. According to UN Water, currently, 3.6 billion people lack access to sufficient water at least a month per year and this is expected to increase to more than five billion by 2050.

Though further research is needed, and more information from regions like Africa, the Middle East and Asia is required, the conclusions made based on data from 273 stations around the globe are straightforward, the Report authors believe. In the realm of river discharge and reservoir inflow, over 50 per cent of global catchment areas and reservoirs displayed deviations from normal conditions, of which a majority were drier than usual.There were anomalies in soil moisture and evapotranspiration (transfer of land water into the atmosphere, either by evaporation or through plants) registered throughout 2022.

The report combines input from dozens of experts and complements WMO’s flagship State of the Global Climate report.

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Source: The UN

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