Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prepare for the Next Conflict: Water Wars

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Posted: 04/12/11 11:11 AM ET

Erik Rasmussen
CEO, Monday Morning, Founder, Green Growth Leaders

Every minute, 15 children die from drinking dirty water. Every time you eat a hamburger, you consume 2400 liters of the planet's fresh water resources -- that is the amount of water needed to produce one hamburger. Today poor people are dying from lack of water, while rich people are consuming enormous amounts of water. This water paradox illustrates that we are currently looking at a global water conflict in the making.

We are terrifyingly fast consuming one of the most important and perishable resources of the planet -- our water. Global water use has tripled over the last 50 years. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages with more than 2.8 billion people living in areas of high water stress. This is expected to rise to 3.9 billion -- more than half of the world's population -- by 2030 in a 'business as usual'-scenario. The status as of today is sobering: the planet is facing a 'water bankruptcy' and we are facing a gloomy future where the fight for the 'blue gold' is king.

The growing water scarcity is a primary driver for insecurity, instability and conflicts and is currently setting the stage for future water wars -- unless global action is taken. This was the main message from a report released last month from the US Senate "Avoiding Water Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia's Growing Importance for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan". The report warned of coming water wars in Central and South Asia due to water scarcity and predicted that it "will be felt all over the world".

A looming crisis
As little as 0.75 percent of the total water available on earth is accessible fresh water. These 0.75 percent are perhaps the world's most important resource. Our global economy, our industries and our everyday life runs on this water.

But fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource. In some places, like parts of North America and Europe, water is plentiful, but in most parts of the world the water resources are under stress due to a growing imbalance between a mounting demand for water and shrinking water reserves. This means that large parts of the world are running out of water. Sana -- the capital of Yemen -- is likely to be the first capital city to completely run dry in a few years. A paper presented by the World Bank entitled "the Aftermath of Current Situation in the Absence of Work" concluded that Yemen will run out of water in the period between 2020-2050. Some 60 percent of China's 669 cities are already short of water and the current record drought in several of China's region is directly linked to their problems with water scarcity.

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