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‘Water demand to outstrip supply by 40pc within 20 years’

A third of world population would get only half the water they require to meet basic needs.

Written by Agencies | London |
March 2, 2011 3:39:01 pm

The demand for water in the world may exceed its supply by 40 per cent within the next 20 years due to global warming and population growth,scientists have warned.

As looming water shortages threaten agriculture,industry and the communities,a new way of thinking about water is highly essential,suggested the experts who gathered at an international meeting in Canada.

They warned that in the next two decades,a third of world population would get only half the water they require to meet basic needs,the Daily Mail reported.

Agriculture,which soaks up 71 per cent of total water supplies,would be the worst hit that will affect world food production,they said,adding that it might cost an estimated 124 billion pounds per year to fill the global water gap by supply measures alone.

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Around 300 scientists,policy makers,and economists attended the international meeting in Ottawa hosted by the Canadian Water Network (CWN) in the run-up to the World Water Day.

Dr Catley-Carlson,director of the CWN and vice-chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Water Security,said: “We need to brace for what could easily be humanity’s greatest short-term challenges.”

Nicholas Parker,chairman of international environmental technology consultants Cleantech Group,highlighted the vast amount of “virtual water” used in farming and industry.

Virtual water describes the volume of water “embedded” in the production process,he said.

For example,Parker said,1.5 tonnes or 1,500 litres of water is required to manufacture a desk top computer.

A pair of denim jeans use up six tonnes of water,while a kilogram of wheat needs one tonne of water. Similarly,three to four tonnes of water is spent for a kilogramme of chicken,while 15 to 30 tonnes of water is need for a kilogram of beef,he said.

“What people don’t often realise is how much water there is in everything we make and buy,from T-shirts to wine,” Parker added.

Dr Nicholas Ashbolt,from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said water conservation measures could “easily” reduce household demand in developed countries by 70 per cent.

Examples of water-saving devices included dry composting toilets with urine separation systems which operated like “garden compost heaps”.

Diverted water was re-used in agriculture while remaining waste was turned into soil-enriching organic compost. “These techniques can be used safely,even in fairly dense urban settings,” said Dr Ashbolt.

The meeting also heard how climate change was increasing the risk of catastrophic flooding in vulnerable parts of the world.

Flood disasters normally expected once in a century could now be occurring every 20 years,the experts said.

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