Solutions for a Water-Short World
The freshwater shortage is emerging as one of the most critical global natural resource issues. At present, 31 countries face chronic freshwater shortages and this figure is expected to rise to 48 countries (encompassing 35% of the world's projected population) by the year 2025. Population growth, rising demands for water for irrigated agriculture and industrial development, massive urbanization, and rising living standards are contributing to the shortage. Pollution has produced a decrease in the finite supply of freshwater at the same time that annual global water withdrawals are increasing at an average rate of 2.5-3.0% each year. The combination of polluted water, improper waste disposal, and poor water management has been associated with serious public health problems, including malaria, cholera, typhoid, and schistosomiasis. Prevention of a crisis requires strategies aimed at managing both the supply and the demand for freshwater. Expansion of family planning programs in developing countries represents an essential measure for ensuring that population growth slows to sustainable levels in relation to the freshwater supply. Just as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture in the 1960s, a Blue Revolution is required now to conserve and manage freshwater supplies. Uncoordinated water management policies by separate jurisdictions must be replaced at the national level with a watershed or river basin management perspective. At the international level, countries that share river basins can devise policies to manage water resources more equitably. Development agencies need to place more emphasis on assuring the supply and management of freshwater resources and on providing sanitation as part of development and public health programs.