The two industries – which account for 70% and 15% of global water use respectively – are “guzzling water” while 2.9bn people could face shortages by 2025.

Water dependent companies – in these two industries in particular – will “have a key role to play in financing and implementing sound strategies” to tackle this impending water crisis, said the report.

“They must step up to the plate or risk significant losses,” the report read. “This is no longer simply corporate social responsibility but sound economic strategy.”

Overall global spending on water conservation projects must at least double to $1.25trn-$2.25 trn per year; equivalent 1.8%-2.5% of global GDP.

Fortunately the corresponding benefits would be commensurately large – a minimum of $3.11trn per year, not counting health care savings and valuable ecosystem service enhancements 

Room for improvement

The UN’s guidelines for improving the efficiency of agricultural production included increased use of waste-water and “prioritising food security over unsustainable water-dependent biofuel production.”

For the energy sector the UN recommended a switch to clean power sources, especially hydropower, which accounts for around 80% of total renewable generation.

The suggestion backs up a recent report from IRENA, which revealed that the UK could halve the amount of water used in energy generation by 2030, if it sources 60% of its electricity from renewables

The problem

Within 10 years, researchers predict 48 countries – 25% of all nations on Earth with an expected combined population of 2.9 billion – will be classified “water-scarce” or “water-stressed”.

By 2030, global demand for freshwater will exceed supply by 40%, with the most acute problems in warmer, low-resource nations with young, fast-growing populations, according to the report.

The consequences of such shortages could include international conflict, economic instability and disrupted climate patterns and according to the UN.

Water deficit

The report also notes that the world is not spending enough on maintaining its water and wastewater infrastructure, building up a deficit $200 million per year.

To bridge this gap, the UN plans to clamp down on corruption – which could be draining up to 30% of funds earmarked for water projects – and redirect the $1.9trn in subsidies given to petroleum, coal and gas industries 

Read the full report

Brad Allen

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