Looming Water Crisis

February 2008 • Volume 2, Issue 2
Is the world running out of water?
By Peter Behr

Introduction

Children play in the dried up bed of the Jialing River near the booming city of Chongqing in central China. The country's worst drought in a half-century prompted Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to warn that the crisis threatens
Children play in the dried up bed of the Jialing River near the booming city of Chongqing in central China. The country's worst drought in a half-century prompted Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to warn that the crisis threatens "the survival of the Chinese nation." (AP Photo/Color China Photo)

In the past decade drought has marched across much of the globe, hitting China, the Mediterranean, southeast Australia and the U.S. Sun Belt. The amount of water used by humans has tripled since 1950, and irrigated cropland has doubled. About one-fifth of the world's population lacks sufficient water, a figure that could reach 40 percent by 2025 by some estimates, in part because of growing world economies. In the poorest societies more than a billion people lack access to clean water, and dirty water kills 5,000 children — enough to fill 12 jumbo jets — every day. By century's end drought is expected to spread across half the Earth's land surface due to climate change, causing hunger and higher food prices. The United Nations says it would cost an extra $10 billion or more annually to provide clean water and sanitation for all. Some recommend privatizing water supplies, while others suggest that charging more for water to encourage conservation would help to avoid future crises.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Natural Resources
Dec. 20, 2011  The Resource Curse
Dec. 09, 2011  Water Crisis in the West
Jan. 18, 2011  Disappearing Forests
Aug. 2008  Race for the Arctic
Feb. 2008  Looming Water Crisis
Oct. 28, 1988  The Battle for Natural Resources
Mar. 21, 1951  International Control of Essential Materials
Oct. 11, 1935  Raw Materials and World Peace
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Water Resources