Economist Features Special Report On Water

In a special report on water the Economist examines the causes of and growing concerns over increasing scarcity around the world.

“Bringing supply and demand into equilibrium will be painful, and political disputes may increase in number and intensify in their capacity to cause trouble. To carry on with present practices would indeed be to invite disaster,” the magazine states. “The proportion of people living in countries chronically short of water, which stood at 8% (500m) at the turn of the 21st century, is set to rise to 45% (4 billion) by 2050,” the Economist reports. “And already 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night, partly for lack of water to grow food.”

The article details several factors contributing to increased water scarcity, including global population growth and farmers’ increased demand for water for irrigation. The piece also notes, “Industry, too, needs water. It takes about 22% of the world’s withdrawals. Domestic activities take the other 8%. Together, the demands of these two categories quadrupled in the second half of the 20th century, growing twice as fast as those of farming, and forecasters see nothing but further increases in demand on all fronts.”

Meeting the demand for water “is a different task from meeting the demand for almost any other commodity,” the magazine continues. “One reason is that the supply of water is finite.” The piece reflects on the major sources of water, how the value of water varies according to region, and the debate over whether water should be viewed as a human right or something that should be purchased (Grimond, 5/20).

The Economist also features an audio clip of the interview with the author of the special issue on water and a list of specific stories included in the report (5/20).

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