Photo via the Scurry Group
Half of the world's population will be living in areas of "acute water shortage" by 2030. That's the grim finding of a report issued by the UN last week, and it's one of the main reasons that 120 countries have convened in Istanbul for a World Water Forum in order to address the burgeoning crisis. There's more at stake than trying to ensure countries have an adequate water supply--they've also got to prevent full on wars from breaking out over water resources. Another major catalyst of the summit was the growing tension between dozens of countries, who are fighting over rivers, lakes and glaciers—an issue that must be addressed not only for the well being of the water-deprived populace, but to maintain peace in general.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the meeting, said that water scarcity is a "potent fuel for wars and conflict," according to Reuters. A particularly striking example is the Sudan, where water shortages have been an underlying cause of the gruesome conflict in Darfur. The dry countries Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are currently embroiled in a dispute over water shortages, and have asked the World Water Forum to moderate. Countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are having trouble watering crops—crops like cotton and grain that support many of the regions' countries' economies—and it's leading to uneasy international relations.
And it's going to get much, much worse.
There are around 6.6 billion people in the world at present. By 2050, there will be 2.5 billion more—and the vast majority of those are going to be born into countries that already have scarce water supplies. Developing nations home to such drylands will have an exponentially more difficult time alleviating poverty and hunger.
News of what specific action will be taken by the council remains vague—Reuters offers only this report:
"The heads of state, environment and development ministers, scientists and development organizations hope to draw up a list of recommendations to help safeguard water resources and to share experiences where projects have been successful."
This is a commendable, very necessary first step—the recognition that water shortage will be a massive issue in days to come, and the opening of a multi-nation dialogue on the issue are both welcome strides towards addressing this monumental issue.