Managing the Global Water Crisis

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Managing the Global Water Crisis

According to The World Economic Forum's Global Risks 2013 report, when 1,000 experts were asked to review the 50 greatest global risks, the world's "water supply crisis" was one of only two risks that ranked in the top five in both impact and likelihood.1

However, after carefully reviewing all the evidence, the Trends editors boldly assert that the real water crisis is not a shortage issue, but an imbalance in distribution.

Projected Global Water Scarcirty, 2025

Solutions are being developed through scientific research that will provide the world with an abundant supply of water, even in the face of population growth. However, access to that water varies from one location to the next. Many places in the U.S. enjoy virtually free water, whereas some areas, such as Southern California, are experiencing shortages. This is also true in the Mideast, as well as in parts of China and India, resulting in a billion people not having access to potable water on a daily basis.

Going forward, four factors will intensify these imbalances.

  1. Changing weather patterns are leading to more droughts in some populated areas. Because of shifting rainfall patterns, some areas will become wetter, and others drier. This will inevitably create a water crisis in certain areas.
  2. Populations in the developing world are greatly increasing demand for food and water, not simply because they are growing rapidly, but because they are becoming more affluent.
  3. Enormous aquifers are being depleted much faster than they can be replenished. This poses a major threat to both agriculture and cities in several regions.
  4. Increased urbanization, manufacturing, and agriculture are leading to greater consumption, waste, and contamination. This is especially true in developing countries, where greater industrial activity is being driven by, and driving, a growing affluence. Many of these new processes are contributing previously unknown pollutants to the water supply in various countries, even as the standards for drinking water are being raised. China is the prime example of a country that is rapidly contaminating its water supply.

To meet this growing water demand and deal with localized water shortages, scientists and engineers are developing new technologies and novel ideas...

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