From Reuters (Deborah Zabarenko):
Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank. Water use is predicted to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, Jenkinson said in a telephone interview. Factor in the expected impacts of climate change this century — more severe floods, droughts and shifts from past precipitation patterns — that are likely to hit the poorest people first and worst “and we have a significant challenge on our hands,” Jenkinson said.
Will there be enough water for everyone, especially if population continues to rise, as predicted, to 9 billion by mid-century? “There’s a lot of water on Earth, so we probably won’t run out,” said Rob Renner, executive director of the Colorado-based Water Research Foundation.
“The problem is that 97.5 percent of it is salty and … of the 2.5 percent that’s fresh, two-thirds of that is frozen. So there’s not a lot of fresh water to deal with in the world.”
Hot spots of water risk, as reported in the World Resources Institute‘s Aqueduct online atlas here , include:
— Australia’s Murray-Darling basin;
— the Colorado River basin in the U.S. Southwest;
— the Orange-Senqu basin, covering parts of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia and all of Lesotho;
— and the Yangtze and Yellow river basins in China.
More coverage from The Washington Post (Juliet Eilperin):
As the global population reaches the 7-billion mark, these sort of ecological distortions are becoming more pronounced and widespread. Sometimes local needs are depleting water, fish and forests; other times food and fuel needs in one region of the world are transforming ecosystems in another. Under either scenario, however, expanding human demands are placing pressure on resources, particularly on world water supply and fisheries.
Robert Engelman, executive director of the Worldwatch Institute, noted that societies have repeated this pattern of depleting one natural resource and then turning to another, whether it’s the whale oil that gave way to fossil fuels or the guano that has been substituted by chemical fertilizer. But the current scale of exploitation has become so vast, Engelman said, that it now exacts even larger consequences.