Continuing my blog on water footprints, concern about water has been growing, with even 'wet' countries such as the UK suffering droughts. Water is becoming scarcer in certain places, and its availability is a major social and economic concern. Currently, about a billion people around the world routinely drink unhealthy water. The Millennium Development Goals are driving improvements but, even if the difficult goals are met, it will still leave more than an estimated half a billion people without access to safe drinking water and over a billion without access to adequate sanitation. According to the UN World Water Development Report (WWDR, 2003) from the World Water Assessment Program in the next 20 years, the quantity of water available to everyone is predicted to decrease by 30%.
So it is clear we cannot carry on using water as we have been doing, especially in regard to food production and manufacturing. Some of the changes needed are very much social, such as limiting population and high water use products (e.g. red meat), but these are major political issues, and not ones the water sector can address. We can however both manage the water cycle more effectively (using Integrated Water Management, IWM, techniques) and reduce water use, especially in regard to food production and manufacturing. My next blog will look at some best practice in these areas.