U.N.: Population facing urban water scarcity could double by 2050

The United Nations warned Tuesday of a possible drinking water crisis in urban areas by 2050. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
The United Nations warned Tuesday of a possible drinking water crisis in urban areas by 2050. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 22 (UPI) -- Urban populations around the world facing water scarcity are expected to double by 2050 because of drought, stressing the planet's ecosystems, according to a new report released by the United Nations on Tuesday.

The U.N. World Water Development report, released ahead of the upcoming U.N. 2023 Water Conference, found that the global population facing urban water scarcity is expected to rise to between 1.7 billion and 2.4 billion people by 2050, up from 930 million in 2016.


It notes the shrinking availability of safe drinking water will affect plant life and animals alike while highlighting collaborative ways people can work together to overcome common challenges to avoid a water crisis.

"There is an urgent need to establish strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. "Water is our common future, and it is essential to act together to share it equitably and manage it sustainably."

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Richard Connor, the report's editor-in-chief, said in a news conference that world leaders cannot ignore a possible drinking water shortage because it could lead to fights over resources and wars down the road since it is so vital for life.


"If we don't address it, there definitely will be a global crisis," Connor said. He said current agriculture needs alone consume 70% of the world's supply.

Connor pointed out that 153 countries share nearly 900 rivers, lakes and aquifer systems. He said while those leave plenty of chances for conflicts, it also lends themselves to cooperation. He added that half of the 153 countries have already worked out some signed agreements.

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He said flood and pollution controls, data sharing and-financing wastewater treatment systems are ways countries and others can work together to avoid a water crisis along with protecting wetlands and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Last August, the United Nations Children's Fund, also known as UNICEF, warned that children in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region could die because of water insecurity. The number of people without access to safe water in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia had increased dramatically to 16.2 million from 9.5 million.

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