Water: Reports Point to Worldwide Problems


Peculiar Progressive has consistently reported on the global water supply issue, hoping these repeated reports (including global struggles here, water as war weapon here, and privatizing water here) would help make readers aware of the urgent need to work for water sustainability worldwide.

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Red Cross water truck in Homs, Syria

Now recent reports from Duke University, the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Committee of the Red Cross specify growing problems with water supply, and possibilities for solving them.

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Better Technology…or Else…

“Population Could Outpace Water by Mid-Century” states the release headline to the Duke study, adding “Technological advances will be needed in coming decades to avoid water shortages.” The report shows both hope and concern, stating:

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Population growth could cause global demand for water to outpace supply by mid-century if current levels of consumption continue. But it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened…


Using a delayed-feedback mathematical model that analyzes historic data to help project future trends, the researchers identified a regularly recurring pattern of global water use in recent centuries. Periods of increased demand for water — often coinciding with population growth or other major demographic and social changes — were followed by periods of rapid innovation of new water technologies that helped end or ease any shortages.


Based on this recurring pattern, the model predicts a similar period of innovation could occur in coming decades.

However, Anthony Parolari, the study’s leader, added a warning:

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But if population growth trends continue, per-capita water use will have to decline even more sharply for there to be enough water to meet demand,” he said. The world’s population is projected to surge to 9.6 billion by 2050, up from an estimated 7 billion today.


For every new person who is born, how much more water can we supply? The model suggests we may reach a tipping point where efficiency measures are no longer sufficient and water scarcity either impacts population growth or pushes us to find new water supplies…

He pointed to water recycling, and finding new and better ways to remove salt from seawater as two of the more likely technological advances that could help alleviate or avoid future water shortages.

UN Hopes for Possibilities

The United Nations 2015 report is entitled “Water for a Sustainable World,” and the 139-page study offers solutions for each continent of the globe. But it also provides some huge future global numbers, including both positive and ominous:

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Global water demand is largely influenced by population growth, urbanization, food and energy security policies, and macro-economic processes such as trade globalization,changing diets and increasing consumption. By 2050, global water demand is projected to increase by 55%, mainly due to growing demands from manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use…


…Investments in water and sanitation services result in substantial economic gains; in developing regions the return on investment has been estimated at us$5 to us$28 per dollar. An estimated us$53 billion a year over a five-year period would be needed to achieve universal coverage – a small sum given this represented less than 0.1% of the 2010 global GDP…


…The world’s slum population,which is expected to reach nearly 900 million by 2020, is also more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events. It is however possible to improve performance of urban water supply systems while continuing to expand the system and addressing the needs of the poor…


…By 2050, agriculture will need to produce 60% more food globally, and 100% more in developing countries…


…Global water demand for the manufacturing industry is expected to increase by 400% from 2000 to 2050, leading all other sectors, with the bulk of this increase occurring in emerging economies and developing countries.

Arab-World Water Crisis

arabwaterimage001The World Bank’s website offers a brief report headlined “By the numbers: Facts about water crisis in the Arab World”. It points out that 6% of the world population lives in the Middle East and North Africa, but that area offers less than 2% of the world’s renewable water supply.

Yet the report notes that parts of the region consume more water per capita than anywhere else in the world:

To meet water demand, many countries in the Middle East rely on desalination plants. Over 75% of worldwide desalinated water is in the Middle East and North Africa, 70% of which is in the GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates) and 6% in Libya and Algeria.


In many MENA countries, 85% of water is consumed by the agriculture sector. More water-efficient agricultural practices will save water so it could be used to meet other demands. Good water-resource management depends on good agricultural irrigation policies.

And, as if war isn’t enough to rip Syria apart this year, the report notes:

Climate change is expected to bring an expected 20% reduction in rainfall and higher rates of evaporation that will make water scarcer. In Syria for example, a predicted rise in temperature, lack of rainfall and unpredictable weather could result in desertification of 60 % of its land area.

Middle Eastern Wars and Water

On March 25, the Red Cross issued a report stressing that Middle Eastern wars — including in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory — have pushed “water shortages to the breaking point”.

Even without war and current droughts, the growing urban areas and food production demands might max water resources. The report notes:

Now with some 7.6 million people displaced within Syria and some 3.8 million seeking safety in neighbouring countries — along with another 2.5 million displaced due to fighting in Iraq — the situation is even more critical.

But the Red Cross says it and Islamic fellow organization Red Crescent (affiliated since 1919 as The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC) have been working hard to find solutions, including:

  • 9.5 million people received water through emergency repairs or rehabilitation of supply systems.
  • 600,000 people received water delivered by tanker trucks or in bottles.
  • 1.1 million people benefited from improvements to water-storage or distribution facilities.

UNICEF Reviews Kids and Water

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) offers good news and bad news:

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On the good side, Ethiopia has supplied water to at least 48 million people. UNICEF explains how:

The key to Ethiopia’s success during these years has been a combination of strong government leadership, persistent donor investment and the development of strong periodic policy instruments. In the year 2000, Ethiopia developed a Water Sector Strategy and Water Sector Development Programme, which paved the way for the progress. Government committed funds to the water supply sector and encouraged donors to invest in lower cost technologies to boost coverage levels. A total of US$ 2 billion has been invested by the Government, development partners, NGOs and the private sector in water supply since 1990.

On the sadder side, the Ukraine conflict has left 700,000 people in the heavily damaged Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts without access to safe drinking water. UNICEF reveals:

In order to respond to the urgent need, UNICEF Ukraine, in collaboration with partners, has provided bottled water to more than 118,000 people in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, UNICEF with the support from the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) has provided three water purification units to Krasnohorivka town (Donetsk oblast), which will secure a continuous supply of safe drinking water to 20,000 people.

Also, yes, we realize the U.S. has its own Western drought problems, with a parched California fearing for its farm production, as well as struggles stretching over to Texas. We’ll continue to keep an eye on this and the world in coming months.

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