Current Water Scarcity May Lead to Higher Food Insecurity

By: Justin Chan

Countries such as Sudan may find it even more difficult to cope with a potential famine after the United Nations released a report detailing the water scarcity farmers currently face.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the report warned that farmers will need at least 19 percent more water by 2050 in order to satisfy the increasing demands for food. Much of the demands are coming from regions that are already dealing with water scarcity, making it incredibly difficult to ensure food security. "In many countries water availability for agriculture is already limited and uncertain, and is set to worsen," the report said. "Concerns about food insecurity are growing across the globe and more water will be needed."

The report's release coincided with the start of the World Water Forum in Marseilles. Government officials joined industry representatives and non-government organizations to discuss resource management, waste, health risks and climate change. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who attended the meeting, said that the increasing water shortages "are an unacceptable situation." At least 12 countries in South Asia and the Middle East suffer from "absolute water scarcity," and farming has been a major consumer of water in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Oman and Yemen. In most cases, the freshwater supply in the region comes from outside while half of the grain consumption is imported. "The scale of the problem could worsen," said Olcay Unver, who compiled the report.

Agriculture, in general, is responsible for 70 percent of global freshwater use and close to 90 percent in some fast-developing countries. At least a quarter of the world's farmland, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said, is "highly degraded" by the intensive agriculture that has shortened the water supply.

The lack of reforms focused on water use, moreover, can potentially lead to a water stress for more than 40 percent of the world's population by 2050."We need to give water a price," said Xavier Leflaive, the author of the report. "Governments have to act and in a strong way."

In an effort to raise awareness about water scarcity, both the UN and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have called on countries to make better use of wastewater, 80 percent of which is not collected or treated. "If we don't take the challenge seriously we are on a collision course with nature and in the end, what needs to be done will take longer and cost more," said Angel Gurria, the OECD's secretary general.

Photo: Shykh Seraj 

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