That was the message from President of the UN General AssemblyCsaba Kőrösi, on an official visit to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he met with top government officials, students and academics, and members of the local community.

“There are commonalities because the whole world is in a water crisiswhich is ignited by climate change and change our water cycle,” Kőrösi said in a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson.

Climate migrants

“I don’t want to scare anybody, but if we don’t solve the water management crisis, in the next 60 to 70 years, hundreds of millions of people will have to move,” he added.

The senior UN official called for support for a global water information system, created as part of the UN system. A new study published in the journal Science on Thursday found that climate change was a key factor in the shrinking of more than half of the world’s lakes and reservoirs since the 1990s.

This is one of the nine game changers agreed upon United Nations Water Conference held in New York in March, which also includes:

  • Integration of water and climate policy at national and global level
  • An early warning system for everyone
  • Decoupling of agriculture, energy production and water
  • Value water accurately
  • A global network for water education
  • Support for cross-border cooperation
  • Create a unified water architecture managed by a dedicated envoy with an independent scientific advisory panel
  • A follow-up to the UN water conference.

Colorado River and Great Salt Lake

the president asked after meeting with water experts from the Utah Department of Natural Resources. He was informed that Utah is now included 23rd year of drought due to climate change, with significant implications for the Colorado River and the Great Salt Lake; the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere.

And while higher air temperatures have brought more precipitation, the heat also means more evaporation and more runoff, because parched soil simply can’t absorb the water.

Historic floods

Drought-stricken Utah is currently facing flooding after a historic amount of early spring rain and snow.

Further complicating matters is that management of the Colorado River system is firmly entrenched in the Colorado River Compact of 1922, which gives rights to two countries and seven states and stipulates water levels that—due to climate change and overuse— are no longer possible.

Local officials said they are focused on “balanced solutions that are long-term,” with discussions touching on agricultural use, water treatment and reuse, and promoting water conservation through legislation and public information.

Sustainable development peaks

While in Utah, Kőrösi also focused on sustainable development in the mountains, which is a topic highlighted in a 2022 report by the Secretary General on that topic and International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development.

One of the challenges highlighted by representatives from rural communities was the lack of social development and inclusion, exacerbated by shutdowns and shutdowns implemented during the covid pandemic.

Everyone must be considered in politics,” said Alitha Thompson, a 36-year-old non-traditional student at Utah Valley University who lives in the rural Gunnison Valley, about 1.5 hours outside the university.

Just because you’re different doesn’t make you wrong. Everyone’s voice needs to be heard,” said Thompson, who, because she didn’t have daycare that day, brought the youngest of her five children to the meeting with the president.

She said about a third of Utah’s population lives in mountain areas; some of the communities suffer from poverty more commonly experienced in developing countries.