Rising Population Faces Shrinking Water Supply

By Capdevila, Ines | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 20, 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Rising Population Faces Shrinking Water Supply

Capdevila, Ines, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

Glaciers are melting, floods account for half of the deaths by natural catastrophes and water is all over. But in 25 years, if water management and use don't change, the people on this planet won't have enough of it to drink, wash, flush toilets, irrigate cropland, generate electricity or supply industries, says a new report.

By 2025, the world population is projected to reach 8 billion. More irrigation will be needed to grow food, more water will be required for other needs, and large-scale investments will have to be found to solve problems of quantity and quality.

"The arithmetic of water still does not add up," the report of the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century concluded last week.

"In the next two decades, it is estimated that water use by humans will increase by about 40 percent and that 17 percent more water will be needed to grow food for a growing population. In addition, the water demand for industry and energy will increase rapidly."

The world commission was established by the World Water Council and co-sponsored by UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and other international organizations.


It submitted its report to government representatives now meeting at The Hague for a world conference on the water crisis. More than 3,000 policy-makers, activists and businessmen are attending the six-day conference that will end Wednesday.

Ironically, although the oceans are expanding and vast storms have affected every continent in recent years, only 1 percent of the earth's water is available to human use. The rest is either salty, stored in remote places or, as in the case of floods, cannot be captured. Quantity is not the only problem.

The report says the water crisis is aggravated by environmental degradation that lowers the quality of water, especially in poor countries where the population is expected to grow most in the coming decades.

In recent years, environment-conscious, developed countries have improved the quality of both drinking and surface water.

Although the overexploitation of aquifers is a leading cause for water shortage in developed countries, large-scale investments have been flowing to clean up renewable water resources.

In the United States, the amount of water used per capita decreased over the past decade. In Europe, salmon are back in the waters of the Rhine, and the Thames, polluted for centuries, is again habitable by fish.


"The water crisis is bound to deepen the breach between developed and developing countries," said Bill Cosgrove, a member of the World Commission and World Water Vision, a think tank on the issue.

"Rich countries can buy their way out of the problem. They are already investing billions of dollars in cleaning up pollution, whereas poor countries are faced with pollution and water shortage, and they have no money to invest."

A quarter of the world's people, living mainly in developing countries, lack access to drinking water, and around 3 billion people lack sewage-treatment facilities, says the Vision 21 report that provided background information for the World Commission report.

"The world is now beginning to feel the pangs of a more chronic and systemic water crisis," said the World Commission report.

More than 3 million children die annually of water-related diseases such as diarrhea and fecal-oral infections, the world's greatest source of infant mortality.

"In terms of percentage, the situation has grown better, but in absolute numbers, it is much worse," said Ismail Serageldin, chairman of the World Commission on Water and World Bank vice president for special projects.


For Mr. Serageldin, the "old problem" of billions of people without access to fresh water and sanitation and a whole list of "new problems" add to the crisis.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Rising Population Faces Shrinking Water Supply


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?