Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

5 Billion People Could Have Poor Access to Water by 2050, UN Warns

Climate
Modern Event Preparedness / Flickr

As the world's population grows and the planet warms, demand for water will rise but the quality and reliability of the supply is expected to deteriorate, the United Nations said Monday in this year's World Water Development Report.

"We need new solutions in managing water resources so as to meet emerging challenges to water security caused by population growth and climate change," said Audrey Azoulay, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in a statement. "If we do nothing, some five billion people will be living in areas with poor access to water by 2050."


According to the report, presented Monday at the 8th World Water Forum in Brazil, global water use has increased by a factor of six in the past 100 years and has been increasing about 1 percent per year due to population growth.

Today, an estimated 3.6 billion people—nearly half the global population—already live in areas that are potentially water-scarce at least one month per year, and could increase to some 4.8 to 5.7 billion by 2050. The growing demand for water will mostly occur in countries with developing or emerging economies. Agriculture will remain the biggest water user, although industrial and domestic demand will put an increasing strain on water supplies.

The 2018 UN World Water Development Report

Additionally, the report warns that climate change is causing drier regions to become even drier.

"The population currently affected by land degradation/desertification and drought is estimated at 1.8 billion people, making this the most significant category of 'natural disaster' based on mortality and socio-economic impact relative to gross domestic product (GDP) per capita," it says.

Global water quality is also at risk from chemical pollution and nutrient loading, which, depending on the region, is often associated with pathogen loading, the report notes. Low- and lower-middle income countries have the greatest exposure risk to contaminated water partly due to a lack of wastewater management systems.

While the predictions sound grim, the report proposes nature-based solutions (NBS) to better manage global freshwater supplies. It recommends more investment in protecting ecosystems that recycle water, such as wetlands and vegetation, and spending less on concrete flood barriers or wastewater treatment plants.

"Green infrastructure" can help reduce pressures on land use, all while limiting pollution, soil erosion and water requirements, the report says. Agricultural production could be increased by an estimated 20 percent worldwide if greener water management practices were used, it found.

Green solutions, from vegetated walls and rooftop gardens, also have great potential to capture and filter water in urban areas. Other measures of recycling and harvesting water include water retention hollows to recharge groundwater, and the protection of watersheds that supply urban areas. New York City, for instance, has protected its three biggest watersheds since the late 1990s, bringing savings of more than $300 million per year on water treatment and maintenance costs, the report highlights.

The 2018 UN World Water Development Report

"For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or 'grey,' infrastructure to improve water management. In so doing, it has often brushed aside traditional and Indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches," wrote Gilbert Houngbo, chair of UN-Water and president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development in the report's foreword.

"It is time for us to re-examine nature-based solutions (NBS) to help achieve water management objectives," he added.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Marco Bottigelli / Moment / Getty Images

By James Shulmeister

Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.

If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to climate.change@stuff.co.nz

Read More Show Less
Luxy Images / Getty Images

By Jo Harper

Investment in U.S. offshore wind projects are set to hit $78 billion (€69 billion) this decade, in contrast with an estimated $82 billion for U.S. offshore oil and gasoline projects, Wood Mackenzie data shows. This would be a remarkable feat only four years after the first offshore wind plant — the 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island — started operating in U.S. waters.

Read More Show Less
Giacomo Berardi / Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and limitations of globalization. The crisis has made people aware of how industrialized food production can be, and just how far food can travel to get to the local supermarket. There are many benefits to this system, including low prices for consumers and larger, even global, markets for producers. But there are also costs — to the environment, workers, small farmers and to a region or individual nation's food security.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Joe Leech

The human body comprises around 60% water.

It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less