Next government urged to prioritise investment in tackling global water crisis

The next UK government must prioritise tackling the global water crisis by investing in access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, WaterAid has said.

The international non-governmental organisation is calling for British MPs to allocate a minimum of 10% of the overseas aid budget to the issue, focusing on the poorest countries and those most off-track from achieving water and sanitation for all.

It came as WaterAid launched its new manifesto on World Water Day on Friday, outlining a series of policy recommendations ahead of the general election later this year.

The organisation warned that more frequent and extreme floods are polluting water sources across the world while droughts are drying up springs.

It cited a recent study from German and Dutch scientists who found that five billion people could be living without clean drinking water by 2050 due to climate change, pollution and rising demand.

WaterAid also referred to World Health Organisation figures, which suggest that almost one in 10 people in the world do not have clean water close to home, while one in five do not have a toilet of their own.

As part of the manifesto launch, the organisation polled more than 2,100 UK adults on how the Government should tackle the water crisis.

The survey, conducted by YouGov between February 27 and 28, suggested that a quarter of the public (25%) think water is the most important area on which to spend aid, while more than half (53%) rank it in their top three issues.

Meanwhile, 70% of respondents said the UK Government should invest in minimising the impacts of climate change, with more than half (56%) choosing prioritising water, sanitation and hygiene as the means to do so.

WaterAid chief executive Tim Wainwright said: “From climate to health to conflict, water is the blue thread that connects us all and is essential to tackling today’s most pressing global challenges.

“As a G7 country, it is the UK’s responsibility to support communities living in poverty, and we cannot continue to drag our feet in delivering overseas aid to those who need it most.

“As today’s survey results clearly show, the public thoroughly backs plans for the next UK government to prioritise investment in clean water – a step that will support those on the front line of the climate crisis and prevent infectious superbugs from reaching millions of lives at home and abroad.”

WaterAid is recommending UK politicians make water issues central to their global climate and health actions.

It is also calling on MPs to tackle global inequality through water by ringfencing investment for women and girls’ needs and ensure their participation in decisions.

Elsewhere, the organisation is urging the public to sign its Vote Water petition as part of efforts to campaign for “a fairer, safer and more sustainable world”.

A Foreign Offices spokesperson said: “The UK is investing to improve access to water and strengthen water infrastructure across the world, including £39 million in new funding for water programming which we announced at Cop28.”

The PA news agency has contacted shadow foreign secretary David Lammy for comment.

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