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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Severe Water Shortages Predicted Within A Few Decades

Scores of people worldwide are in trouble. Safe, clean drinking water, already a very precious resource, is predicted to become extremely precious--and harder to find, within a few decades. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences warns us that by the year 2050, more than 1 billion people--living in major cities in the developing world, will face water shortages. That is equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the world's current population!

More than 3 billion people are predicted to experience water shortages "at least one month of every year." Climate change is expected to worsen this already catastrophic problem, as the warming of the planet is likely to cause another 100 million people who live in cities to not have adequate access to safe drinking water.

Water for Humans has been documenting this world-wide crisis with sound science and in partnership with other environmental sustainability organizations. You can fine clear and compelling statistics on the severe magnitude of the global water shortage on the Water for Humans website.

The below report is not to be taken lightly. Too often we read or hear about dire warnings, and if they are far enough into the future, we tend too often to become "tuned out" to such credible calls for action. We encourage you to read this article, and then we invite you to join Water for Humans in our international campaign to provide low-cost, clean water solutions to underserved populations while ensuring that water remains a local, public resource.

By 2050, more than 1 billion city dwellers may face water shortages if no new infrastructure is built or no new water conservation efforts are undertaken, according to a new National Academy of Sciences study [1]. More than 3 billion people may suffer similar water shortages at least one month of every year, according to this study. The shortages are projected to hit mega-cities ranging from Beijing to Delhi, Mexico City, Lagos and Tehran.

This recently released study looks only at water availability within a metropolitan region. Many more people lack access to clean water if problems of inadequate water quality or delivery within cities are taken into account.

To define “water shortage,” the study used a standard of 100 liters per person per day, which the World Health Organization says is the minimum a person needs for “optimum” long-term health and sanitation.

Researchers found that urban population growth will account for most of the big projected increases in water shortage. Climate change may add an additional 100 million more people to live without adequate water supplies unless cities take measures on time.

Common infrastructural solutions to address water shortages such as transporting water longer distances, building dams and desalination are all expensive. Better ways to address shortages, says one of the study’s authors Rob McDonald of One solution, are more efficient water use by agriculture and industry, payments to farmers to reduce areas of irrigated agriculture, and removal of non-native water-hungry vegetation such as eucalyptus.

“The thing I’m really worried about,” says McDonald, “is how the poorest cities are going to be able to afford to get water to their residents. Right now, many poor cities have trouble delivering clean water to their residents, and unless new capital is available for investment the situation will get worse.

“There’s a real shortfall in investment right now in solving this problem, and the developed countries in my opinion need to play a larger role in helping close that shortfall.”

Footnote: [1] McDonald, R.I. … [et al.] (2011). Urban growth, climate change, and freshwater availability. PNAS, Published online before print 28 March 2011. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1011615108 [open access]

Source: Robert Lalasz, Cool Green Science, 28 Mar 2011

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