The world needs to transform the way it manages its water, Professor Patrick Verkooijen of the World Bank said on Wednesday.
To accelerate the transformation, World Bank President Jim Kim and United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres are convening a high-level panel on water with 11 heads of state, including President Jacob Zuma.
Verkooijen was addressing delegates, including Zuma, at a World Water Day Summit and Expo in Durban.
It was the first time in the history of the UN and the World Bank that such a panel would be convened.
Zuma said the panel sought to inspire world leaders to help accelerate the implementation of the UN's sustainable development goals.
He said although South Africa had enshrined in Constitution the basic right of all to sufficient food and water, much still had to be done to fulfil that right.
He urged delegates to help those deprived of their basic right to clean water and food.
World Water Day was first celebrated on March 22, 1993. Delegates were asked to recycle water instead of wasting it.