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SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch)—As the global economy grows, the world is going to get a lot more thirsty in 2030 if steps aren’t taken to cut back on fresh water use now, the United Nations says.
At current usage rates, the world will have 40% less fresh water than it needs in 15 years, according to the United Nations World Water Assessment Program in its 2015 report, which came out ahead of the U.N.’s World Water Day on Sunday.
“Strong income growth and rising living standards of a growing middle class have led to sharp increases in water use, which can be unsustainable, especially where supplies are vulnerable or scarce and where its use, distribution, price, consumption and management are poorly managed or regulated,” the report said.
Factors driving up demand for water include increased meat consumption, larger homes, more cars and trucks on the road, more appliances and energy-consuming devices, all staples of middle -class life, the report noted.
Population growth and increased urbanization also contribute to the problem. Water demand tends to grow at double the rate of population growth, the report said. The global population is expected to grow to 9.1 billion people by 2050, up from the current 7.2 billion.
More people living in cities also put strain on water supplies. The report estimates that 6.3 billion people, or about 69% of the world’s population, will be living in urban areas by 2050, up from the current 50%.
The biggest drain on water resources is agriculture, which uses about 70% of the world’s fresh water supplies. Tapping into groundwater supplies to make up for surface-water deficits strains resources. The report said that 50% of the world relies solely on groundwater to meet basic daily needs and that 20% of the world’s aquifers are already over-exploited.
The issue of water scarcity rose again to prominence recently when a NASA scientists warned that drought-stricken California only has about a year’s worth of water left. Recently, MarketWatch’s David Weidner looked into the California water crisis and Mark Hulbert pointed out seven ways of exploiting water shortage concerns.