2019 WaterAid report: consumption exacerbates crisis

2019 wateraid report
© iStock/thad

A report published yesterday by international development nonprofit WaterAid draws attention to the growing issue of water poverty.

The Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019 report, released in advance of World Water Day this Friday 22 March, examines the causes and impact of water scarcity. Around four billion of the world’s citizens live in areas with a sparse physical presence of water; and 844 million are unable to access clean water near to their homes.

As demand and consumption of products with a high “water footprint” increases alongside the global population, the amount of water required to produce the requisite foodstuffs to meet worldwide demand grows correspondingly higher; which can lead to shortages in the already water-scarce countries where these products originate. WaterAid’s report showed a 125 millilitre cup of coffee has a water footprint of 140 litres, while avocados account for just under 2,000 litres of water per kilogram.

The report says: “In 2015 the global community committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, which promises that by 2030 everyone will have a safe supply of water available whenever they need it. But progress on delivering safe drinking water to all is threatened: by the lack of political will and financing required to deliver, by the competing demands from industry and agriculture, and by climatic changes. The number of people living in physically water-scarce areas is predicted to rise to [five] billion by 2050, making this promise even more important, and more challenging.”

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the UK’s Environment Agency, told the Waterwise conference in London this week that England was at risk of widespread water shortages within 25 years; due to a combination of climate change and population growth. Bevan called on the British public to cut their water usage from the current national average of 140 litres per day to 100 litres, saying: “We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.”

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