The latest UN water report, issued only once every three years, said water problems in many parts of the world were chronic. Without a crackdown on waste, this will worsen as demand for food rises and climate change intensifies, it said.
“Pressures on freshwater are rising, from the expanding needs of agriculture, food production and energy consumption to pollution and the weaknesses of water management,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in the report.
“Climate change is a real and growing threat. Without good planning and adaptation, hundreds of millions of people are at risk of hunger, disease, energy shortages and poverty.”
Demand for food will increase by some 70 percent by 2050, which will lead to a nearly 20 percent increase in global agricultural water consumption, the UN’s Fourth World Water Development Report said.
Abstraction of aquifers has at least tripled in the past 50 years and now supplies almost half of all drinking water today. “In some hotspots, the availability of non-renewable groundwater resources has reached critical limits,” the report said.
The report demanded an overhaul in the use of water, especially by curbing waste. Smarter irrigation, less thirsty crops and the use of “grey,” or used water, to flush toilets are among the options. Already, more than 2.5 billion people are in need of decent sanitation and nearly one in 10 has yet to gain access to “improved” drinking water, as defined under the UN’s 2015 development goals.