But with a view that better understanding could help us to address the root causes, Finnish researchers have conducted an extensive study looking in more detail at the factors likely to lead to an escalation in water-related conflicts.

Population growth, urbanisation, increasing pollution, soil erosion and climate variations are all reflected in the management and adequacy of the world’s waters.

The situation is particularly difficult in many developing countries, where there are growing concerns over escalating water crises and even outright water conflicts between countries and regions.

“The current rate of population growth and urbanisation are already impacting food production,” Professor Olli Varis from the Water and Development Research Group at Finland’s Aalto University.

“We need to improve the efficiency of agricultural output, as it’s unlikely that the acreage under cultivation can be much increased.

“Improved efficiency requires the efficient use of water resources.”

Pollution and over-consumption are putting pressure on existing resources and many developing countries face a dilemma over whether to use rivers to generate income from hydro-dam projects at the cost of traditional water-related livelihoods.

“Up to 60-90% of the world’s population live in countries that suffer from water shortages, and that figure will rise sharply in the future,” said Prof Varis.

Sam Bond

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