Global water crisis could ‘get out of hand’ due to overconsumption and climate change, UN warns


The world is facing looming global water crisis which threatens to “get out of control” as rising demand for water and the deepening effects of the climate crisis put enormous pressure on water resources, the UN report warned

According to the UN World Water Development Report, released on Tuesday ahead of a major UN water summit in New York, water consumption has increased by about 1% per year over the past 40 years, driven by population growth and changing consumption patterns.

By 2050, the number of people in cities facing water scarcity is projected to nearly double from 930 million in 2016 to 2.4 billion, according to the report. By 2050, urban water demand is expected to increase by 80%.

Without action to address water scarcity, “a global crisis is definitely coming,” said Richard Connor, lead author of the report. at a press conference to present the report.

Access to water is already a huge problem. According to the report, two billion people currently lack safe drinking water and 3.6 billion people lack access to safe sanitation.

About 10% of the world’s population already lives in countries with high or critical water scarcity.

Urban and industrial growth, as well as agriculture, exacerbate existing water scarcity, Connor says, with agriculture alone consuming 70% of the world’s water supply.

The report says that seasonal water scarcity will increase in areas where water is currently plentiful, including Central Africa, East Asia and parts of South America. Meanwhile, water shortages will worsen in the Middle East and the Sahel region of Africa, where water is already scarce.

The authors of the report note that extreme and prolonged droughts, which have become more frequent and severe due to the climate crisis, are also putting pressure on ecosystems, with “terrible consequences” for plant and animal species.

Boats are parked at dry Lake Shasta in Lakehead, California on October 16, 2022.

A man performs rituals in the Yamuna River, filled with toxic foam from industrial and domestic wastewater, in New Delhi, India, on March 19, 2023.

Solutions include better international cooperation to avoid conflicts over water, Connor said.

Flood and pollution control, data sharing and efforts to reduce planet-warming pollution should “open the door for further cooperation and increase access to water funds,” he said.

“There is an urgent need to put in place credible international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, the cultural body of the United Nations.

“Water is our common future, and it is important to work together to distribute it fairly and manage it rationally.”