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06 April 2010

How to develop a sustainable water strategy

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Water, water everywhere... but unfortunately there's not enough

In 20 years' time, water availability will be 40 per cent below where it needs to be to support a growing global population. That is the stark warning from the 2030 Water Resources Group, a collection of industry experts, academics and NGOs which earlier this year produced a report detailing the scale of the looming water crisis.

The report, entitled Charting Our Water Future, states that global water requirements are set to grow from 4,500 billion metres cubed today to 6,900 billion metres cubed by 2030. Unfortunately, this demand is well beyond the capacity of existing reliable supplies, meaning that while huge investment in new water infrastructure will be essential, businesses and consumers will also have to start using water far more efficiently than they do at present.

The causes of the shortage are complex and numerous, but a growing world population with ambitions for a better standard of living is arguably the driving force behind the impending crisis. The majority, about 97 per cent, of the world's water is salt water, and of the remaining three per cent which is fresh, two per cent is tied up in glaciers and the poles (for now). That leaves just one per cent to meet the needs of an increasingly resource-hungry planet. Add the shifting rainfall patterns that are likely to result from climate change and there is a recipe for disaster over the next few decades.


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