World water shortages could affect 5 billion by 2050: U.N. report

A child drinks water from a tap at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip refugee camp. A U.N. report Monday warned that growing stresses on the planet could lead to severe water shortages by 2050. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI

March 20 (UPI) — About half the world’s population could be affected by severe water shortages in the next 30 years due to a number of factors, including climate change, a United Nations report said Monday.

In its World Water Development Report, U.N. researchers said shortages could directly impact 5 billion people by 2050, when the world population will be between 9 billion and 10 billion.

The study warns that stresses on rivers, lakes, reservoirs, aquifers and other water sources could lead to shortages — which could then result in conflict, environmental damage and threats to civilization.

Industrialization, population growth, climate change and the growth of developing countries are straining the water supply, the research says.

“The global water cycle is intensifying due to climate change, with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions becoming even drier,” the world body said. “Other global changes (e.g., urbanization, deforestation, intensification of agriculture) add to these challenges.”

The report advocates nature-based solutions that rely on soil, trees and prevention of erosion, and notes global demand for water increases by 1 percent every year.

Noting the 2014-15 drought in Sao Paolo, Brazil, which was linked to Amazon deforestation, the U.N. research urges planners to consider a wider geographic area when anticipating water supply. It also says trees and other vegetation help to recycle and distribute water, contrary to the views of many farmers.

The report encourages sustainable “green solutions” to receive serious consideration, including payments to communities embracing ecosystem improvements.

The 134-page report was released Monday in coordination with the start of the World Water Forum in drought-affected Brazil, and the observance of World Water Day on Tuesday.


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