Water shortages will be one of the world’s most pressing problems in the next decade, and this will be compounded by a growing global population and climate change.
Without some means of equitable water distribution, water may even be the cause of the next world war. Rivers lakes and aquifers are cross border issues. Already the allocation of water resources is causing disputes between Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan, as well as the US and Mexico. Many believe that the crisis in Darfur was at least in part due to issues surrounding access to water.
Population growth will place additional demands on dwindling water supplies. The world’s population is expected to grow to almost 9 billion by 2050. In addition to the population explosion, growing wealth and urbanization is fueling demand for water. The United Nations climate panel says between 90 and 220 million people in Africa will face water shortages by 2020 due to climate change. This will have a direct impact on farms, which exacerbate the problem by further depleting groundwater.
“Population growth, an increase in wealth, urbanization, and … climate change, all of those are going to present really big problems to humanity,” Beddington told the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.
Climate change will add additional burdens to the worsening water crisis. Climate change is forecast to disrupt rainfall patterns, leading to more severe droughts and floods, posing problems for the supply of fresh water.
“Water security fears, rising demand for food and a drive to curb greenhouse gas emissions all posed commercial opportunities,” Beddington said.
To help combat growing water problems, countries need to focus on water efficiency. Countries can also reduce the burden of climate change by focusing on low-carbon technologies, including energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon capture.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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