The Global Picture

According to the United Nations, due to population growth and economic development, global demand for water has been growing at around 1% a year, and is expected to continue doing so over the next two decades. Agriculture will continue to dominate demand, although industrial and domestic water use will grow at faster annual rates. Demand will grow most in developing and emerging economies. The water cycle is intensifying with wet regions becoming wetter, and dry regions dryer. Some 3.6bn people (about half the world’s population) live in areas that are potentially water-scarce at least one month a year, and this population could grow to as much as 5.7bn by 2050. At the same time around 1.2bn are at risk of floods, and this could grow to 1.6bn by 2050. River water pollution has intensified in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and is a threat to human health.

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