Water Scarcity is a Global Issue: World Economic Forum

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - The World Economic Forum has released its Global Risks 2014 report, which takes a ten-year outlook, assessing the 31 risks that are global in nature and have the potential to cause significant negative impact across entire countries and industries if they take place. On the list is water, which ranks as the third highest concern, illustrating a continued and growing awareness of the global water crisis as a result of mismanagement and increased competition for an already scarce resource.

Water security, whether it is the challenge of too little water over long periods of time, or too much water all at once, is one of the most tangible and fastest-growing social, political and economic challenges faced today. It is also a fast-unfolding environmental crisis. In every sector, the demand for water is expected to increase. Analysis suggests that the world will face a 40 per cent global shortfall between forecast demand and available supply by 2030.

This outlook bears potential for crisis and conflict since water lies at the heart of everything that is important to human existence. Water not only ensures our survival, but also has a relevance to social well being and economic growth. Water is becoming a limited resource as it can’t withstand constant over-extraction and is being depleted faster than being renewed. Crucially, water cannot be substituted, and therefore this stress on the world’s water will affect food and energy systems around the world. It is predicted that within the next 15 to 20 years, the worsening water security situation risks triggering a global food crisis, with shortfalls of up to 30 percent in cereal production. Therefore, with this scenario, water shortages turn into a global issue.

While governments must be the ultimate custodian of national water resources, many other stakeholders also have a role to play in delivering solutions. Proper coordination within government-set strategies is required with approaches that support cost-effective solutions. Coalitions will be and are required: public-private-civil society coalitions focused collectively on addressing the water security issue, each meeting the challenge within a common policy framework.

Water is the link, connecting together a web of food, energy, climate, economic growth and human security. The world simply cannot manage water in the future in the same way as it has been doing or the economic web will collapse. Climate change is going to affect the amount of water that comes in as precipitation; if you overlay that on an already stressed population, we're rolling the dice. In 2011, the UN Security Council recognised the serious implications of climate change, with water being the medium through which climate change will have the most effects.

Photo Credit: Marisol Grandon, Department for International Development