More than 100 executives, including national presidents, gathered at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday to discuss water.
“Water is going to shape the path of economic growth in the countries in which we work,” says Rachel Kyte, vice- president at the International Finance Corp., the World Bank’s private-investment arm.
“Water scarcity is having its impact already today in food prices,” says Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. The chairman of Nestle SA, the world’s largest food company, “By 2030, 30 percent of cereal production goes if we carry on at current water-usage rates. Politicians want 20 percent of energy to come from biofuels; we would have to triple food production to get there.”
“A rapidly rising global population and growing prosperity are putting unsustainable pressures on resources,” the WEF said in its 2011 report on global risks. “Demand for water, food and energy is expected to rise by 30 to 50 percent in the next two decades, while economic disparities incentivize short-term responses in production and consumption that undermine long-term sustainability. Shortages could cause social and political instability, geopolitical conflict and irreparable environmental damage.”
Lee McIntire, chairman and chief executive officer of CH2M HILL Cos., a consulting and engineering firm based in Englewood, Colorado, says “Aquifers take about 1,000 years to fill and 50 years to drain,” he says. In the future, “we’re probably going to have to pay for water.”