Global Water Supplies Threatened by Climate Change

March 16, 2012

According to a United Nations report released Monday of this week, significant threats to global water supplies include climate change, rapid urbanization, and an unprecedented rise in the demand for food.  The report also indicates that a drastic new approach to managing this essential resource is necessary to sustain future generations.

The 4th edition of the World Water Development Report (WWDR4), ‘Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk’ was launched on the first day of the World Water Forum, in Marseille, France.  The report estimates that there will be a 70 percent increase in demand for food by the year 2050, spurring a 19 percent surge in water used for agriculture.  Currently, 70 percent of freshwater is already being used for agricultural purposes.

Climate change has an increasing impact on water resources as it changes soil humidity and rainfall patterns, causes glaciers to melt, and raises the number of water-related disasters such as floods and droughts.  All of these impact food production.  The report estimates that by 2070, this impact will affect up to 44 million people world-wide.

The report also shows that sanitation infrastructure is not keeping pace.  More than 80 percent of the world’s waste water is neither collected nor treated.

However, the report does not stop at pointing to the world’s water problems.  It also aims to provide decision-makers with the tools to implement sustainable use of our water.  Best practices are offered as well as in-depth theoretical analyses to help stimulate ideas and actions for better stewardship in the water sector.  Additionally, through a series of assessments, a mechanism is provided for monitoring changes in water management and tracking progress towards achieving targets.