Pressure Rising on World's Fresh Water Supply
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 14, 2001 (ENS) - All of the more than 1,000 water experts meeting here at the 2001 Stockholm Water Symposium and World Water Week are focused on the fact that the world population will increase by up to three billion in the next 25 years, and each person will need a daily supply of fresh water.
By 2025, about 2.7 billion people, nearly one-third of the projected population, will live in regions facing severe water scarcity, says a new study by the International Water Management Institute. Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with some of the most heavily populated and poorest regions of the world, will be most affected.
Environmental scientists report that water consumption must be reduced by at least 10 percent in order to protect floods, lakes and wetlands. Agricultural scientists say that water usage within agriculture must increase by 20 percent in order to maintain food supplies and avoid catastrophic starvation.
"The truth is that both sides have a point," said Holland's Crown Prince Willem Alexander, keynote speaker on Monday, at the official opening of World Water Week.
"Increasing scarcity, competition and arguments over water in the first quarter of the 21st century will dramatically change the way we value and use water and the way we mobilize and manage water resources," said the prince. "Innovative ways of using this precious commodity have to be found to protect ecosystems and ensure food for the billions on this planet."
"If current trends continue, the shortage of water will extend well beyond the semiarid and arid regions," says Professor Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the International Water Management Institute headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
"In developing countries, irrigation today accounts for over 80 percent of the water consumed, so that the debate among agriculturists and environmentalists on how to manage water for agriculture is of paramount importance to the very poor," says William Cosgrove, vice president of the World Water Council.
World Water Week will be filled with celebrations as well as deliberations. On Friday, The Stockholm Water Prize will be presented by HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on behalf of the Stockholm Water Foundation to Professor Takashi Asano, a water reuse expert from the University of California at Davis. The award is presented annually for outstanding contributions on behalf of the world's water resources.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize was awarded today, and went for the first time to Swedish students. Youths from 18 countries participated with projects on water and the water environment. Magnus Isacson, Johan Nilvebrant, and Rasmus Öman from Stockholm and the Bromma High School won the prize.
"The Prize has established itself as The World Championship' on water research for youth," said Dr. Johan Rockström of IHE-Delft, The Netherlands, chairman of the international nominating committee. "This is a great achievement, but more importantly it is filling an enormous gap. There are simply far too few arenas for tribute of young excellence in managing our finite and precious natural resources, such as water."