October 16, 2002 -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Report Projects Impending Water Crisis, Solutions to Avert It
Washington, DC -- If current trends in water policy and investment hold or
worsen, we will soon face threats to the global food supply, further
environmental damage, and ongoing health risks for the hundreds of millions
of people lacking access to clean water. These findings come from Global
Water Outlook to 2025: Averting an Impending Crisis, a report by the
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International
Water Management Institute (IWMI) released on World Food Day.
Using sophisticated computer modeling, the report projects that by 2025,
water scarcity will cause annual global losses of 350 million metric tons of
food production-slightly more than the entire current U.S. grain crop.
"Unless we change policies and priorities, in twenty years, there won't be
enough water for cities, households, the environment, or growing food,"
cautioned Dr. Mark Rosegrant, lead author of the report and senior research
fellow at IFPRI. "Water is not like oil. There is no substitute. If we
continue to take it for granted, much of the earth is going to run short of
water or food-or both."
Due in part to rapid population growth and urbanization in developing
countries, water use for households, industry, and agriculture will increase
by at least 50 percent in the next 20 years. Increased competition for water
will severely limit the availability of water for irrigation, which in turn
will seriously constrain the world's production of food.
Declines in food supply could cause prices to skyrocket, and higher prices
will lead to significant increases in malnutrition, since many poor people
in developing countries already spend more than half their income on food.
"For hundreds of millions of poor farmers in developing countries, a lack
of access to water for growing food is the most important constraint they
face," said Frank Rijsberman, director general of IWMI. "If countries
continue to under invest in building strong institutions and policies to
support water governance and approaches to give better access to water to
poor communities, growth rates for crop yields will fall worldwide in the
next 25 years, primarily because of water scarcity."
According to the report, it would take only a moderate worsening in global
water policy to bring about a genuine water crisis. If governments continue
to cut spending on crop research, technology, and infrastructure, while
failing to implement institutional and management reforms, global grain
production will drop by 10 percent over business as usual levels, equivalent
to losing the entire annual grain crop of India.
Lack of adequate investment and poorly planned systems will hamper progress
in providing water and sanitation services for hundreds of millions of
"Currently, more than 1 billion people around the world do not have access
to a safe water supply, and adequate sanitation is even less available,"
noted Dr. Joachim von Braun, director general of IFPRI. "Lack of clean water
and sanitation is a major cause of disease and child mortality. While world
leaders recently agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to
cut in half the number of people without access to clean water by 2015, this
goal will not become a reality unless governments redirect their water
policies to meet the needs of poor people."
Fundamental changes in water policies and investment priorities could
achieve substantial benefits and sustainable use of water. For example, the
report recommends pricing water to reflect its cost and value.
"Although water subsidies are commonplace in developing countries, they
tend to benefit relatively wealthy people," explained Dr. Peter Hazel,
director of Environment and Production Technology at IFPRI. "Making affluent
people pay for water would encourage them to conserve. It would also free up
financial resources to provide clean, safe water to poor people."
The report also recommends increased investment in crop research,
technological change, and rural infrastructure to boost water productivity
and growth of crops yields in rained farming, which will account for
one-half the increase in food production between 1995 and 2025.
"We need to invest in water conservation, for example, using innovative
low-cost, small-scale irrigation technologies - such as a five dollar bucket
and drip kit or manually operated treadle pumps - that allow smallholder
farmers to irrigate crops using less water, and deliver water to crops when
it is needed, " said Rijsberman. "A number of useful new small-scale
technologies and community-level water management innovations have emerged
in recent years. Governments must learn from these practices in order to
implement practical solutions for using less water in agriculture. Without
conservation, aquifers, lakes, and wetlands will be further depleted."
"A crisis is not inevitable," said Rosegrant. "The world can both consume
less water, and reap greater benefits. To achieve sustainable water use, we
must act now. The required strategies take not only money and political
will, but time as well."
[Report and additional information at
http://www.ifpri.org/pressrel/2002/101602.htm . Report also accessible from
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