Global Water Shortages - World Water Day

March 31, 2011, 10:53 a.m.

March 21, 2011

Speaking out ahead of World Water Day on Tuesday, water experts have warned of growing water shortages worldwide, Inter Press Service reports.

Currently, UNICEF estimates there are 884 million people worldwide who lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion are without "adequate sanitation," the news service writes. U.N. Water predicts water shortages will only grow worse: "By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be living under stress conditions," according to the group (Deen, 3/18).

"U.N. studies project that 30 nations will be 'water scarce' in 2025, up from 20 in 1990. Eighteen of them are in the Middle East and North Africa, with Libya and Egypt among those added to the 1990 list that includes Israel and Somalia," Reuters reports.

On Sunday, on the eve of a water and security meeting taking place this week in Canada, experts called on the U.N. Security Council to "promote 'hydro-diplomacy' to defuse any tensions over water in regions like the Middle East and North Africa where scarce supplies have the potential to spark future conflicts," the news service writes. "They said the U.N. Security Council should work out ways to bolster cooperation over water in shared lakes or rivers, from the Mekong to the Nile, that are likely to come under pressure from a rising world population and climate change" (Doyle, 3/20).

The three-day conference in Canada will bring together environment and policy experts to "discuss problems affecting the world's water supply," Canadian Press/CTV News reports. In addition to discussion about water and security issues, experts will look at "how water affects energy, development, the environment and public health," the news service writes (3/21).

The U.N. Environment Program on Monday issued a report (.pdf) on how rapid urbanization in Africa is creating new demands on water and sanitation services, Capital News reports (3/21). "Today 40 percent of Africa's one billion people live in urban areas -- 60 percent in slums -- where water supplies and sanitation are severely inadequate, according to the report," a UNEP press release states. "Africa's urban population without access to safe drinking water jumped from close to 30 million in 1990 to well over 55 million in 2008. ...Over the same period, the number of people without reasonable sanitation services doubled to around 175 million."

"Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent on the planet and the demand for water and sanitation is outstripping supply in cities," Joan Clos, executive director of UN-HABITAT, said, according to the press release. "As cities expand, we must improve our urban planning and management in order to provide universal access to water and basic services while ensuring our cities become more resilient to the increasing effects of climate change," Clos added (3/21).

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