By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Energy
World Water Day: Unless sustainable water resource management practices are implemented, more than half of the world's population will be exposed to severe water scarcity by 2050, according to a new report.
Unless sustainable water resource management practices are implemented, more than half of the world's population will be exposed to severe water scarcity by 2050, according to a new report.
According to research by Veolia Water -- a Chicago-based firm that specializes in water and wastewater services, naturally -- and the International Food Policy Research Institute, water scarcity is as much an economic issue as it is an environmental one.
The authors write:
The efficiency of water management and our ability to sustain population and economic growth are inextricably linked. [...]
Today, 36% of the global population — approximately 2.4 billion people — already live in water-scarce regions and 22% of the world’s GDP ($9.4 trillion at 2000 prices) is produced in water-short areas. Moreover, 39% of current global grain production is not sustainable in terms of water use.
According to IFPRI’s analysis, current “business as usual” water management practices and levels of water productivity will put at risk approximately $63 trillion, or 45 percent of the projected 2050 global GDP (at 2000 prices), equivalent to 1.5 times the size of today’s entire global economy. Moreover, 4.8 billion people (52 percent of the world population) will be exposed to severe water scarcity by 2050.
This dire scenario will, in turn, have a significant impact on investment decisions, increase economic and operational costs, and affect the competitiveness of certain regions.
It's not just a warning, either: in China, India and other emerging economic powerhouses, water scarcity has already started to "materially risk growth." More than 1.4 billion people live in areas of high water stress in those two countries, the authors write.
But sustainable practices can help. Worldwide, more than 1 billion people -- and about $17 trillion of grodd domestic product, or GDP -- could benefit from smarter water utilization. To boot, the number of children projected to suffer from malnourishment would drop 21 percent, according to the study.
More data points:
- "Business as usual" water management practices will put about $63 trillion of global GDP at risk by 2050. That's 45 percent of the total.
- "Business as usual" practices would put 4.8 billion people -- 52 percent of the world population -- in water-stressed areas by 2050.
The authors outlined four strategies with varying degrees of predicted water efficiency.
Those are, in order of efficiency from least to greatest:
- Grey. No water productivity improvements; minor energy efficiency gains. Energy and water demand grows by 20 percent in OECD and 130 percent in non-OECD countries. Energy mix: nuclear and thermo electrical power generation.
- Low-carbon. That is, the water scenario as a result of adopting low-carbon energy. Surprisingly, the water impacts of biomass (some irrigation) and hydropower (evaporation from reservoirs) outweigh water savings from efficiency gains. Better than "grey," but less productive than "business as usual."
- Business as usual. Moderate improvements in leakage reduction; about 50 percent of water productivity gains realized. Energy and water demand increases by 10 percent in OECD and 110 percent in non-OECD countries. Energy mix: high share of conventional thermal electric generation, some renewable energy.
- Blue. Major improvements in leakage reduction and water efficiency gains. Energy demand grows at 19 percent in OECD and 110 percent in non-OECD countries. Energy mix: renewable energy increases from 19 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2030.
The big lesson here: water conservation is increasingly a business decision, even for those businesses that don't directly deal with it, such as the food and beverage industry. (You can read the entire report here, as a .pdf.)
So what's the answer? The authors suggest campaigns for greater public awareness; higher levels of water reuse; improvements in water technology; upgrades to water and wastewater infrastructure; services for rural and urban poor populations; and greater energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy.
Great ideas, all of them. But how will we get there?
More from World Water Day on SmartPlanet:
- Startup Rentricity recovers energy from water systems
- Water's energy potential highlighted on World Water Day
- American scientist wins 2011 Stockholm Water Prize
- 10 ways to cut water consumption
- New irrigation system helps farmers conserve water
- Invention uses sunlight to produce clean water
- In 20 years, water demand will exceed supply by 40 percent
- Why we're running out of water
Mar 22, 2011
From the FairWater.org website: Water is important for all of us. In western countries, good quality water is normally available on tap and we easily use 100 to 200 liters a day. But in rural Africa this is different. In these small towns and villages, people have no water from a tap. The main source of water is often a handpump in a well. This water is used for drinking, cooking, washing and for some agriculture and livestock. Many projects constructed these wells with handpumps over the last 20 years and people were happy and getting used to this. However, sustainability of the water source is becoming a serious issue in rural Africa. A recent RWSN report 4, May 2010 indicated that on average probably already over 50% of all handpumps are abandoned. Over 350.000 water pumps are donated, but now many of them are not working anymore! As a result, people that were used to have safe water, have to go back to unreliable water sources again, often far away. RWSN concluded that water projects should change approach and aim for more sustainability. However, most projects continue in the same way and continue to donate fragile handpumps without a proper maintenance concept. If this goes on, it is expected that within 10 years 90% of all handpumps are not anymore in operation. No reliable water source in the rural areas will create major problems and force even more people towards towns where these problems will accumulate. Obviously, rural Africa needs urgently reliable and sustainable handpumps that can be maintained with little cost. FairWater aims at development through affordable, sustainable & safe water supply. We concluded that first of all, the best and most effective way is to replace all handpumps that are now broken down by a stronger and more reliable handpump, the FairWater BluePump. To help the people to maintain these BluePumps, we introduced the "BlueZone" concept. A BlueZone is a region that has a professional support for installation and maintenance from a competent and reliable local company for a fair price. The BlueZone concept is a simple solution that can easily be scaled up by any NGO at about ??? 2.500,- for each broken down handpump. It's not expensive, but it is sustainable and makes people happy. The BlueZone concept has been implemented by FairWater already in several African countries and we aim to colour Africa Blue. We think that the people deserve this and with the right approachand a reliable handpump, it's not that difficult after all! It is our experience that once a BlueZone has started and old handpumps are replaced by the BluePump, nearby communities want to be connected and ask for sustainable BluePumps as well. This is the good news, there is hope. It is now just a matter of using available funding in a more sustainable way, no time to waist!
Do people actually get paid to make this stuff up? Nice theory. I read the same thing in 1980. Except then the prediction was for 2010. He wants to make money off this somehow.
Education has advanced and will advance further with groundwater being seen. Our participation in the program was to provide the imaging application, we didn't understand the significance of nature's hidden treasure. Here are some aerial images to show groundwater location in the infrared spectrum. http://www.thermoguy.com/groundwater.html Seeing their objective allows professionals to locate and protect.
In this decade we are crossing the threshold of the number of humans per acre of arable land for population sustainability. Soylent green won't be long after.
Our water resources are unlimited, but the shortages are being solely for economic reasons. Take a gallon of water and try to destroy it. It just takes another form. Now if your are talking about distribution, that is a different matter. DMGlover hit the nail on the head. The oceans are vast, and if you hadn't noticed, cover most of this planet. The technology is there, just start using it.
With the untold billions tossed away on global warming or climate change or climate disruption or whatever the name is this week hundreds of de-salination plants and pipelines for distribution could be built. Stop wasting money on AGW stupidy and build de-salination plants.
I am afraid that this is doublespeak for those of us who chose water rich areas for agriculture to be forced to share with areas who chose to create huge cattle farms on arid semi dessert in the SW of the country.
I'm not sure if anyone collects statistics, but no doubt a large fraction of the American middle class live in homes with sizable front lawns. The lawns require regular watering. The thing is, they're mostly decorative & non-functional for those of us without young children. Even the parents of young children prefer use of back yards to front lawns. It's hardly Iraq alone that wastes a large fraction of it's water. That happens any time canals or irrigation ditches are unlined. It's not practical to export ordinary water for either profit or as a form of aid. It's up to the industrialized world to maximize their use of domestic water supplies so that rivers that flow across borders are not drained before crossing them. The tech & the practices that the industrialized world develops will be the exports.
Maltus predicted over 100 years ago that the global population would exceed resources. Technology helped improve the amount of food grown so that global population has grown well above what Malthus thought was the upper limit. I think that his conclusion that there is an upper limit to human population is valid although greater than he believed. Water supplies are dwindling due to many problems. One problem is the increase of populations that increase the stress on the local water supply. Another problem is caused by pollution; the aquafers in PA and NY are being contaminated by fracking to increase natural gas productions. The article also refers to water resource infrastructure that also wastes water. There was recent news that half of the water in Iraq is wasted due to leaks in the transport system.
In my area the two biggest users of potable water are, - A paper mill - And Agriculture. A throttle could be put on both, but won't due to political and economic reasons. I am afraid that no amount of fore telling will get any significant action until the grim reaper is at the gate. :-;
For all of the talk about the looming problems caused by global population growth I have yet to hear anyone face the tough decisions. Should the nations with adequate supplies of food and water continue to send resources to parts of the world that are contradictions? By contradictions I mean we in the USA are bombarded with advertising that people are starving in nation X because of a lack of food and water. Yet nation X is one of the many countries that are the largest sources of the population explosion causing the global shortages. Maybe starvation is Mother Natures way of dealing with over population. Should we strive to economize our planets resources? YES. But lets face the tough questions folks and not place all the blame on developed nations.