MILAN - A new scientific study documents the underestimation of a crisis that affects various parts of the world. Arjen Hoekstra, Professor of water management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and co-author of the research published in the Science Advances journal, explains that the shortage of water is fuelled by population growth, by consumer habits and by the demands of agriculture. All of this is nothing new. However, the key point is that the figures now emerging are much higher than what was previously thought.
A shortage of water in the world
Unlike previous studies, this work compares the consumption of available water on a monthly basis rather than annual, from all over the world. In their models, researchers have included data on climate, on the uses of soil and land, the growth of crops, irrigation, population density and industry. The study reveals that the world's shortage of water involves many more than the 3 billion people previously estimated. There may be an additional billion people at risk, therefore resulting in 2 out of every 3 people in the world being affected. China and India represent about half of the total identified, but the problem is spread across all latitudes and also affects Mexico, North Africa, South Africa, the Middle East and the American West.
Sustainable use is crucial
Hoekstra has stated that the solution is to use water in a more sustainable manner, a mandate that finds itself amongst the top items on the international agenda. “The World Economic Forum has identified the shortage of water, along with climate change, as the highest environmental interest priorities and the biggest risks to the world economy”, said the expert. A wiser allocation of resources as well as a change of pace in consumer mentality is required.
by Alessandro Michielli