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UN warns of widespread water shortages

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that, “The world faces a bleak future over its dwindling water supplies, with pollution, climate change and rapidly growing populations raising the possibility of widespread shortages, a new report compiled by 24 agencies of the United Nations says.”

“The warning from the UN is based on one of the most comprehensive assessments the global body has undertaken on the state of the world’s fresh water and was commissioned for use at a major international water conference being held next week in Istanbul.”

The World Water Assessment Programme website adds, “The United Nations World Water Development Report, released every three years in conjunction with the World Water Forum, is the UN’s flagship report on water. It is a comprehensive review that gives an overall picture of the state of the world’s freshwater resources and aims to provide decision-makers with the tools to implement sustainable use of our water.”

“The assessment, called World Water Development Report, says that while water supplies are under threat, the demand for water is increasing rapidly because of industrialization, rising living standards and changing diets that include more foods, such as meat, that require larger amounts of water to produce.”

NEARLY HALF THE WORLD WILL BE LIVING IN AREAS OF WATER STRESS BY 2030 It predicts “that by 2030, nearly half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress.”

“The UN is worried that squabbles over water in politically unstable areas are increasingly driving conflicts, requiring the development of new security strategies to resolve these disputes. It says the water woes could increase the risk of national and international security threats, pointing to a number of countries that could be vulnerable to conflicts over water resources, including Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Haiti, Sri Lanka and Colombia, among others.”

WATER SHORTAGES CONSTRAIN ECONOMIC GROWTH “The report also warns that water shortages are having another unusual effect: They are beginning to constrain economic growth. The report cites a lack of water as a threat to growth in parts of China, India and Indonesia, and commercial centres in Australia and the western United States.”

“Population and urban growth are among the reasons the UN agencies worry about water shortages. Every year, the world’s population grows by another 80 million, with most of the growth occurring in urban areas. The report says this means the world will have ‘substantially more people’ living in urban and coastal areas vulnerable to scare water resources.”

“Another concern is the huge demand agriculture places on water resources. Already, about 70 per cent of the fresh water used by people is for growing crops and raising livestock. The report expresses concern that as more people in emerging economies gain middle-class lifestyles, they will consume more milk, eggs, chicken and beef, ‘which is much more water-intensive than the simpler diets they are replacing.'”

“The report says that within the next 30 to 50 years, there will be ‘substantial population displacements’ due to global warming, and that those affected, whom it terms ‘climate-change refugees,’ will need new water and sanitation services.”

“Another problem is the lack of safe water and sewage disposal. The report estimates that almost 10 per cent of the world’s disease could be prevented with clean water.”

The full article can be read at