Water availability and sanitation.
Water availability and sanitation.
Image: United Nations

Water stress is rising

The world’s water supplies are under increasing strain. The global population tripled in the 20th century and rising living standards have further stimulated demand. Climate change is accelerating the problem of water stress across the planet.

Water is the primary medium through which the world will feel the effects of climate change, according to United Nations Water. It says water availability is becoming less predictable, with flooding and droughts both increasing.

More than 2 billion people live in countries suffering high levels of water stress, and by 2040 a quarter of the world’s children will be living in areas of extreme water stress. Water scarcity could lead to the displacement of up to 700 million people by 2030, the UN predicts.

Global response

Data compiled by the World Water Council says that, overall, domestic consumption only accounts for 10% of worldwide water usage, with industry taking 20% and evaporation from reservoirs claiming a further 4%. The rest is down to agriculture.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Water Initiative was launched in response to a warning from scientists that the gap between global water supply and demand would widen to 40% by 2030.