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UN: Water Management Can Lessen Impact of Climate Change

FILE - A lesser adjutant stork looks for fish in a wetland in Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Dec. 20, 2018.

Harmful emissions of greenhouse gases can be reduced by making the water supply more sustainable, says an agency that works on water and sanitation issues

Water management can blunt the impact of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming, reports UN-Water, an agency that works on water and sanitation issues.

About 90 percent of all major natural disasters are water-related, according to the United Nations. Floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and other water-related events are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, as well as economic losses that run into hundreds of billions of dollars.

UN-Water spokeswoman Daniella Bostrom Couffe says while water management can be used to mitigate the effects of climate change, the measures are largely overlooked.

"Water is not gaining that much political attention just because it is something that we all take for granted," she said. "And, of course, we would all like to see more attention both from the public and from political decision makers about this."

A recent UN-Water report cites a number of strategies for managing climate and water in a coordinated and sustainable manner. One focuses on reviving Earth's disappearing wetlands.

Couffe notes about two-thirds of natural wetlands are vanishing because of factors including agriculture, drainage, and mining for fuel. That, she says, results in the release of massive amounts of carbon.

"Wetlands ... cover about 3 percent of the Earth," she said. "But they hold twice as much carbon as all the Earth's forests together. So, by restoring these wetlands, that is a very effective way to limit the effects of climate change."

UN-Water reports harmful emissions can be reduced by making water supplies more sustainable. It notes 123 countries are implementing solutions by sharing aquifers, and rivers and basins, which affect around 40 percent of the world's population.

The agency says lower income populations are disproportionately affected by climate change, and must be helped through targeted strategies from the richer countries that produce most of the damaging carbon.