United Nations Warns About Impending Water Crisis

A United Nations report released Friday warns of the dangers of unsustainable growth and its impact on water consumption worldwide. The clear and explicit message from the UN report implies the onset of a water crisis if we do not change our water usage habits.

The annual World Water Development Report of 2015 claims that the world’s population is expected to grow to nine billion by 2050, increasing demand for water by 55 percent of our current usage in that same year. Also in 2050, the worldwide demand for food will grow by 60 percent, and by 100 percent in developing countries. If we continue to use water in the way that we do now, however, we will only have 60 percent of the water we need by 2030. The report also notes that about 20 percent of the world’s supply of aquifers (underground water reserves) are “currently overexploited”.

What will happen if this shortage becomes a reality? The report explains that without ample water, crops could fail, prices could rise, and economies could break under the pressure, causing riots and deaths on a potentially large scale. A microcosm of this is already occurring in California, where severe, elongated drought in the farm-populated central valley has strained farmers and caused water rationing and increased taxes.

An additional worry is that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, which will produce an increase in slums. The report notes that due to the nature and layout of slums, it is difficult to provide fresh water and sewage treatment to these areas, which will cause further deaths and human suffering.

What specifically is causing the increased demand of water? The report explains that it is “mainly due to growing demands from manufacturing, thermal activity generation and domestic use,” noting that the production of energy often requires vast amounts of water.

The report suggests for countries to focus on five key areas for sustainable water usage: WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), water resources, water governance, water quality and wastewater management, and water-related disasters. It notes that the responsibility lies with everyone, from the public to private sector, and that we must view the issue as a shared problem.