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75% of world population to face water shortages by 2050

75% of world population to face water shortages by 2050

75% of world population to face water shortages by 2050
April 2, 2008

By 2025 more than half of countries will face freshwater stress or shortages and by 2050 as much as 75 percent of the world’s population could face freshwater scarcity, but policy measures and new technologies could help reduce the shortfall, report researchers writing in the journal Nature.

“This growing international water crisis is forcing governments to rethink how they value and use and manage water, especially because economic development hinges on water availability,” write Mike Hightower and Suzanne Pierce, water experts at Sandia National Laboratories. “Drinking water supplies, agriculture, energy production and generation, mining and industry all require large quantities of water. In the future, these sectors will be competing for increasingly limited freshwater resources, making water supply availability a major economic driver in the 21st century.”

Global warming worsening U.S. water crisis
Human-induced climate change is accelerating a water crisis in the American West, reports a study published this week in the journal Science. Analyzing shifts in river flow, snow pack and winter air temperatures in the Western United States for the past 50 years, Barnett and colleagues show that up to 60 percent of theses changes can be attributed to human-caused climate change. The authors call for fundamental changes to the science behind water planning and policy.

China Faces Water Crisis — 300 million drink unsafe water
About 300 million Chinese drink unsafe water tainted by chemicals and other contaminants according to a new report from the Chinese government. A leading government official said the greatest non-drought threat to China’s water resources, is chemical pollutants and other harmful substances that contaminate drinking supplies for 190 million people.

Hightower and Pierce say that water recycling through new treatment technologies and use of non-traditional water sources — including wastewater, brackish groundwater, seawater and extracted mine water — could help mitigate shortages.

“There are other, cheaper ways to increase water productivity, such as improving water conservation and efficiency,” Hightower and Pierce said in the article. “But water reuse can help to expand these traditional approaches by matching the quality of water supplies to needs, and substituting nontraditional water for freshwater where appropriate.”

Hightower and Pierce suggest the use of seawater instead of freshwater for cooling power plants, promoting use of renewable energy technologies that do not require water for cooling, and developing technologies that capture water by condensing evaporation from cooling towers.

This article is based on a news release from Sandia Labs

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