Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

India and China Will Suffer Severe Water Stress by 2050, Says Study

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

India and China Will Suffer Severe Water Stress by 2050, Says Study

Article excerpt

Parts of Asia are likely to suffer severe water stress by the middle of this century, according to a new study by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, considered major developing nations - notably India and China - and modeled their water-use trajectories if no action is taken to restrain either growth or anthropogenic climate change.

Under such circumstances, the researchers found that both countries had a roughly one-in-three chance of entering a "water- stressed phase," defined as one in which water usage exceeds surface- water supplies.

"This is not simply a case of saying that climate change is going to affect everything adversely everywhere," says co-author Adam Schlosser, deputy director at MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, in a telephone interview with The Christian Science Monitor.

"There is a whole range of plausible outcomes, and when we think about water resources, it has to do with human demands as well as climate change."

Specifically, the researchers looked at four key variables: population growth, economic expansion, natural climate fluctuations, and carbon emissions from human activity.

They then made predictions about the impact of economic expansion and population growth alone, human-induced climate change alone, and then both together, focusing on how these factors affected water stress.

As defined by the European Environment Agency, "water stress occurs when the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when poor quality restricts its use. Water stress causes deterioration of freshwater resources in terms of quantity and quality."

While natural phenomena such as drought can certainly cause water stress, says Dr. Schlosser, unrestrained economic growth and the ballooning emissions that accompany it have "very direct effects on water demand."

Most people think of fresh water as endlessly available, but when demand consistently outstrips supply, aquifers - nature's underground water-storage tanks - can become completely drained. …

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