When the Sustainable Development Goals, humanity’s blueprint for a better future, were launched in 2015, there was already growing alarm at the state of the planet’s freshwater resources. Rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers around the world were under increasing pressure from climate change and pollution, putting at risk the water sources that support billions of people.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 committed countries to universal access to clean water, sanitation, and to preserving and restoring the ecosystems that provide sources of fresh water.
Since then, humanity has put more stress on the global water system, with countries worldwide experiencing extreme water events like flooding, drought, and the degradation of freshwater ecosystems more frequently. The planet is losing these ecosystems, and the biodiversity within them, faster than any other.
In March 2023, for the first time in 46 years, the United Nations met at the General Assembly to tackle this growing crisis.
We sat down with Susan Gardner, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Ecosystems Division, to talk about the perils facing freshwater resources, how to restore them, the importance of tracking water-related environmental data, and how UNEP is taking forward the outcomes of the UN 2023 Water Conference.