Fresh water supply may drop by one-third per person in next 20 years

A United Nations report presented at the recent World Water Forum in Kyoto predicts that the average supply of fresh water will drop by one-third per person in the next 20 years.

Mar 31st, 2003


March 31, 2003 -- A United Nations report presented at the recent World Water Forum in Kyoto predicts that the average supply of fresh water will drop by one-third per person in the next 20 years.

By mid-century, 2 to 7 billion people out of an estimated global population of 9.3 billion will not have enough water, according to the report. Causes identified include pollution, climate change and population growth.

At least 20 percent of the predicted decrease will be due to climate change. In addition, increased pollution and warmer water temperatures will hurt water quality. Currently, 2.2 billion people die each year from diseases related to contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation, a problem likely to worsen as clean water becomes less available.

The report notes that two million tons of waste is dumped into the world's rivers, lakes and streams every day. If water pollution keeps pace with population growth, nearly 18,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater will be unusable by 2050-- almost nine times the amount of water the world uses for crop irrigation each year. Irrigation currently accounts of 70 percent of water withdrawals worldwide, the report says.

Several National Academies reports address how best to use and protect the water supply. To read them, please visit http://www.nationalacademies.org/headlines/.

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