The amount of water per person in Africa is shrinking and most countries across the continent will fail to reach global goals for clean water.
Only 26 of the continent's 53 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) water target to half the number of people without safe drinking water by 2015.
And just nine African countries - Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Rwanda, Botswana, Angola, South Africa and Egypt- look set to meet the separate MDG target of halving the number of people without basic sanitation 2015, the United Nations Environment agency (UNEP) said.
It comes as the agency releases its Africa Water Atlas, featuring hundreds of before and after shots, new maps and satellite images from 53 countries to highlight Africa’s problems with water supplies.
"It contains the first detailed mapping of how rainwater conservation is improving food security in drought-prone regions,” said the agency. “Images also reveal how irrigation projects in Kenya, Senegal and Sudan are helping to improve food security.”
The 326-page atlas pulls together information about the role of water in Africa's economies and development, health, and food security. But as well as the water challenges, the atlas maps out new solutions and success stories from across Africa. It has the first detailed map of how rainwater conservation is improving food security in drought-prone regions and covers how irrigation projects in Kenya, Senegal and Sudan are helping to improve food security.
"The dramatic changes sweeping Africa linked with both positive and negative management of this continent's vital water resources is graphically brought home in this Atlas,” said the UNEP’s Achim Steiner
"From the dams triggering erosion on the Nile Delta to pollution in the Niger River Basin, the way infrastructure development or uncontrolled oil spills are impacting the lives and livelihoods of people are all brought into sharp relief.
But so too are the many attempts towards sustainable management of freshwaters - for example the controlled releases from dams on Chad's Logone River that are restoring in part the natural flooding cycles leading to the recovery of economically-important ecosystems," he said.
After Australia, Africa is the world's second-driest continent. With 15 per cent of the global population, it has only nine per cent of global renewable water resources. Water is unevenly spread across the continent too, with Central Africa holding 50 per cent its water and northern Africa only three per cent.