Water scarcity ‘now bigger threat than financial crisis’

From The Independent :200903220928.jpg

“Humanity is facing “water bankruptcy” as a result of a crisis even greater than the financial meltdown now destabilising the global economy, two authoritative new reports show. They add that it is already beginning to take effect, and there will be no way of bailing the earth out of water scarcity.

The two reports – one by the world’s foremost international economic forum and the other by 24 United Nations agencies – presage the opening tomorrow of the most important conference on the looming crisis for three years. The World Water Forum, which will be attended by 20,000 people in Istanbul, will hear stark warnings of how half the world’s population will be affected by water shortages in just 20 years’ time, with millions dying and increasing conflicts over dwindling resources. (…)

Water use has been growing far faster than the number of people. During the 20th century the world population increased fourfold, but the amount of freshwater that it used increased nine times over. Already 2.8 billion people live in areas of high water stress, the report calculates, and this will rise to 3.9 billion – more than half the expected population of the world – by 2030. By that time, water scarcity could cut world harvests by 30 per cent – equivalent to all the grain grown in the US and India – even as human numbers and appetites increase.

Some 60 per cent of China’s 669 cities are already short of water. The huge Yellow River is now left with only 10 per cent of its natural flow, sometimes failing to reach the sea altogether. And the glaciers of the Himalayas, which act as gigantic water banks supplying two billion people in Asia, are melting ever faster as global warming accelerates. Meanwhile devastating droughts are crippling Australia and Texas.”

At the World Water Forum, going on now, China reports a serious water shortage in Hebei Province, which supplies Beijing.

Link to the UN World Water Assessment Program, and the Water in a Changing World report.

Link to the World Economic Forum Water Initiative report.

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