Water is at the center of economic and social development: it is vital to maintain health, grow food, generate energy, manage the environment, and create jobs. Water impacts whether poor girls are educated and whether poor villages can withstand flood or drought.
Water security is emerging as the number one global risk in terms of development impact. The world will not be able to meet the great development challenges of the 21st century – human development, livable cities, climate change, food security, and energy security – without improving how countries manage their water resources and ensuring that people have access to reliable water and sanitation services.
Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, of which 1 billion practice open defecation. Poor sanitation impacts health, education, the environment, and industries such as tourism. At least 700 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Poor sanitation, water, and hygiene lead to about 675,000 premature deaths annually, and the lack of access to safe water results in up to 7 percent of GDP in equivalent economic losses in some countries every year.
Water challenges cut across economic sectors. The global population is growing fast and estimates show that with current practices, the world will face a 40 percent shortfall between forecasted demand and available supply of water by 2030. Today, 70 percent of global water withdrawals are for agriculture. Feeding 9 billion people by 2050, will require a 60 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals. More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. And the number is growing fast. By 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in regions or countries with absolute water scarcity.
Climate change will make water more unpredictable. A World Bank report suggests that in a 4°Celsius warmer world, water stress will increase in areas around the world. The roughly 1 billion people living in monsoonal basins and the 500 million people living in deltas are especially vulnerable. Poorer countries, which contributed least to the problem, will be most affected.
Last Updated: Apr 10, 2015