Billion-plus people to lack water in 2050: study

Mar 28, 2011 by Shaun Tandon
Indian women fill containers with potable water from a government water supply tanker at their residential colony in Hyderabad on March 22. More than one billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050 as climate change worsens effects of urbanization, with Indian cities among the worst hit, a study said Monday.

More than one billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050 as climate change worsens effects of urbanization, with Indian cities among the worst hit, a study said Monday.

The shortage threatens sanitation in some of the world's fastest-growing cities but also poses risks for wildlife if cities pump in water from outside, said the article in the .

The study found that under current urbanization trends, by mid-century some 993 million city dwellers will live with less than 100 liters (26 gallons) each day of water each -- roughly the amount that fills a personal bathtub -- which authors considered the daily minimum.

Adding on the impact of climate change, an additional 100 million people will lack what they need for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and toilet use.

"Don't take the numbers as destiny. They're a sign of a challenge," said lead author Rob McDonald of The Nature Conservancy, a private based near Washington.

"There are solutions to getting those billion people water. It's just a sign that a lot more investment is going to be needed, either in infrastructure or in water use efficiency," he said.

Currently, around 150 million people fall below the 100-liter threshold for daily water use. The average American has 376 liters delivered a day, although actual use varies widely depending on region, McDonald said.

But the world is undergoing an unprecedented urban shift as rural people in India, China and other growing nations flock to cities.

India's six biggest cities -- Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad -- are among those most affected by . The study forecast that 119 million people would face water shortages in 2050 in the Ganges and plain alone.

With an annual monsoon, India does not lack water. But it struggles to preserve the water from the wet season to the dry season, McDonald said.

West Africa, which sees some of the world's heaviest rainfall, will also face water shortages in cities such as Lagos, Nigeria, and Cotonou in Benin, the study found.

The study warned of threats to ecosystems if developing nations take water from elsewhere. India's Western Ghats region, a potential source for thirsty cities, is home to nearly 300 fish species, 29 percent of which are found nowhere else, it said.

"If cities are essentially drinking rivers dry, that has really bad effects on the fish and the reptiles and everything else in the river," McDonald said.

Instead, the study recommended reforms to agriculture -- usually the top consumer of water -- and improved efficiency, as nearly half of the water in some poor countries is wasted due to leaks.

"There is a lot of potential for increase in efficiency in the agriculture sector, or indeed in the residential sector, to solve most of this challenge," McDonald said.

The study said there would be a need for international funding to help poorer nations "to ensure that can enjoy their fundamental right to adequate drinking water."

UN-led talks last year on climate change agreed on practicalities to set up a global fund to assist poor nations most hit by , with a target of 100 billion dollars a year starting in 2020.

Other cities forecast by the study to face a water crunch include Manila, Beijing, Lahore and Tehran.

Explore further: Romanian city opens plastic bottle bridge in litter protest

More information: paper online: www.pnas.org/content/early/201… /1011615108.abstract

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fuviss_co_uk
3.8 / 5 (4) Mar 28, 2011
in 2050 world will look almost like in Star Trek( without warp speed), I don't think, that purifying salt ocean water, and trasport water at vast distances will be a problem....
Those guys are so close-minded, they should talk with some futurists and look at this problem in wider perspective..
Pharcyde
1 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2011
I agree, but you also need to focus on the population increase. Even with cancer & heart disease killing off a lot people. The Human population continues to sky rocket!

Cancer will surely be cured, along with many other chronic diseases. And if we continue to use fossil-fuels we're done. At-least the poor people are...
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2011
I agree, but you also need to focus on the population increase. Even with cancer & heart disease killing off a lot people. The Human population continues to sky rocket!

Cancer will surely be cured, along with many other chronic diseases. And if we continue to use fossil-fuels we're done. At-least the poor people are...


Some people believe that our population will flatten out around 10 billion. They believe that modernization of poorer countries will result in lower birth rates. This planet has the capacity to host well over 10 billion humans if we learn how to use resources and space more effectively. Think about how many megacities could be built in middle America, Africa, south America and even subterranean in very cold climates.
meeker
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2011
If we stopped advancing in technology right now, then I would be more worried about our water. That's not to say I'm gonna turn on all my faucets, but as others have stated ... tech will be moving faster and faster and we will solve this problem well before 2050. Desalination machines are becoming perfected right now. Dean Kamen also has his Slingshot purification system. So, 40 years from now, we shouldn't have to worry.

And it's true, as people become smarter, they have less children ... because they know how to prevent pregnancies and how to protect their young better. There's no need to have five, six, ten kids unless you want to become a Reality Star moron. Population will stagnate. Well, we could start living to 1000, but that's another story.
Kingsix
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2011
ding ding ding
Technology and Less people to the rescue.

I absolutely agree with the comments on modern societies having fewer children and the advance of technology. I would however be very careful not to re-predict the cities of the future as they did in the 50's. We need to get real about what technology will bring in 39 years. Certain technologies will be fast tracked, like desal etc. but typically I give new inventions, and I mean new, not just something improved, 15 years to get to be common. This is really why its a race against time to get these discoveries.

1 big problem I see is culture, Europe and North America didn't drop their birthrates over night and some developing nations have a very long cultural tradition of large families. Many of them still see a lot of family members as the best way to provide, as it gives them more chances to have someone with a good paying job. It sucks but it may take 2-3 generations (31-42yrs) just to change that attitude