Globally, arid and semi-arid areas face the greatest pressures to deliver and manage freshwater resources. It has been estimated that by the 1990s 40% of the world’s population were suffering from serious water shortages and this is set to increase, with two-thirds of the population living under water stress by 2025. Challenges facing water managers in these areas include population growth, food security, salinity increases and pollution from various sources. Superimposed on these pressures, climate change is expected to increase water scarcity and the frequency of floods and droughts in many arid and semi-arid areas. Accurately assessing and managing the available and renewable water resources is more difficult in semi-arid regions, compared with water-rich countries; the science base is limited, data are scarce and humid zone experience is inappropriate.
UNESCO’s programme for Water and Development Information for Arid Lands – a Global Network (G-WADI) was established in 2004 by the 15th session of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP).
Strengthening the capacity to manage the water resources of arid and semi-arid areas through the established G-WADI network was one of the priorities of IHP-VII (2008-2013) 'Water Dependencies: Systems under Stress and Societal Responses’. It continues to be of high importance within the framework of IHP-VIII (2014-2021) 'Water Security: Addressing Local, Regional and Global Challenges'. In particular, it is a key element of the themes on Addressing Water Scarcity and Quality and Water Related Disasters and Hydrological Changes.
The strategic objective of the G-WADI Network is to strengthen the global capacity to manage the water resources of arid and semi-arid areas. Its primary aim is to build an effective global community through integration of selected existing material from networks, centres, organizations and individuals. Moreover it seeks to empower local initiatives, for example by links with NGOs. The Network promotes international and regional cooperation in these areas.