Water Scarcity Will Carry Heavy Economic and Human Toll: Report

Water Scarcity Will Carry Heavy Economic and Human Toll: Report

Population growth, changing lifestyles, agricultural needs and increased energy production are some of the factors driving record-high demand for water throughout much of the world.

Climate change is expected to exasperate water scarcity, according to a new report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which warns that all countries, both rich and poor, must invest in water for the sake of their economic and social survival.

There's a strong business case for water investment, according to the report: Every dollar put toward water generates a return of between $3 and $34. It estimates Africa suffers an economic loss of up to 5 percent of GDP because it lacks basic access to safe water and sanitation.

The U.N. released its World Water Development report, "Water in a Changing World," at the Fifth World Water Forum, which kicked off Monday in Istanbul, Turkey. Government ministers and participants from about 120 countries are attending the conference to examine climate change and water scarcity, sanitation and access issues.

Failing to invest in water means as many as 5 billion people -- two-thirds of the world population -- may not have basic sanitation by 2030, although trends suggest 90 percent of the world will at least have access to adequate drinking water by then. About 500 million in Africa currently have no access to basic sanitation.

Water issues are making headlines beyond the forum, which is held every three years. In the U.S., for example, Coca-Cola said Monday it will spend $30 million on water projects in Africa to make clean water and sanitation available to more than 2 million Africans by 2015. The company has set a water neutral goal for its manufacturing facilities, meaning it will try to return all water used in its drink production to the environment "at a level that supports aquatic life and agriculture" by late 2010.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program launched its first "Fix a Leak Week" beginning Monday to educate Americans on the things they can do at home to save water, such as maintaining faucets, toilets, hoses and irrigation systems to reduce water waste and inefficiency.  The agency estimates leaks cause U.S. households to waste more than a trillion gallons of water annually.

Also on Monday, IBM unveiled a new line of services and research called Strategic Water Information Management solutions. The services are geared toward helping businesses and public agencies control their water consumption. The company's researchers said last week they have created an energy efficient water filtration membrane that filters out harmful substances, such as arsenic and boron salts, from groundwater.

To read more about corporate water management in the U.S., see "Saving Every Last Drop" and "Water Basics: You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure" by Andrew Collier and Andrew Glantz, analysts for GreenOrder.

"Running water" -- Licensed by bb_matt .