New McKinsey Report Warns of Rising Demand on Water Resources

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We had a brief reprieve from dire water news when Mike posted about US water use in the US in 2005 lower than most years since 1975. Thanks to efficiency measures in industrial and agricultural sectors, it seemed like we were on a good path. However, a report released on Monday by McKinsey shows a global water demand that brings us right back into a frightening reality. We are running out of arguably the single most important resource the planet has to offer, and yet we're demanding more of it. The study, sponsored by the companies Coca-Cola, Barilla, New Holland Agriculture, Nestlé, SABMiller, Standard Chartered Bank and Syngenta, with backing from the World Bank, states that in 20 years, water demand will be 40 percent higher than it is today.

A primary place where water use needs to be reigned in is simply how we view it - showing the true cost of water use and remembering that access to fresh, clean water is a human right - a basic necessity for life. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the chairman of Nestlé, stated that "it's not a human right to wash your car, fill up your swimming pool and water your golf course.''

The New York Times reports, "Water needs to rise up the totem pole of political discourse,'' said Giulio Boccaletti of McKinsey... during a press conference. "We need to stop flying blind in making decisions about water without a map on the table.''

The report shows some hope for creating that map:

After careful quantitative analysis of the problem, this report provides some answers on the path to water resource security. It first quantifies the situation and shows that in many regions, current supply will be inadequate to meet the water requirements. However, as a central thesis, it also shows that meeting all competing demands for water is in fact possible at reasonable cost. This outcome will not emerge naturally from existing market dynamics, but will require a concerted effort by all stakeholders, the willingness to adopt a total resource view where water is seen as a key, cross-sectoral input for development and growth, a mix of technical approaches, and the courage to undertake and fund water sector reforms.

According to the report, focusing on technologies around water use - specifically in the agricultural sector -, improving how productive we are globally with what water we have available, and actively reducing how much we withdraw from the water table will be the keys to reducing the challenges we'll face in the future as demand for water rises.

Read the full report Charting our water future for details.

More on the Global Water Crisis
What the Water Crisis Really Means for You and the Planet
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25 Things You Might Not Know About Water
6 Solutions for California's Water Crisis and How We Can Help

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