One Hundred More Colorado Rivers Needed to Feed Growing Population by Alister Doyle

“Death Valley, No Water” Photo by Trey Ratcliff/Flickr/cc

OSLO (Reuters) – The world needs to find the equivalent of the flow of 100 Colorado rivers or 20 Nile rivers by 2025 to grow enough food to feed a rising population, and help avoid conflicts over water scarcity, says a recently released study by world leaders.

Factors such as climate change will strain freshwater supplies, and nations including China and India are likely to face shortages within two decades, they said, calling on the U.N. Security Council to get more involved. “The future political impact of water scarcity may be devastating,” former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said of a study issued by a group of 40 former leaders he co-chairs, leaders including Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. “It will lead to some conflicts,” Chretien told reporters on a telephone conference call, highlighting tensions such as in the Middle East over the Jordan River.

The study, by the InterAction Council of leaders, said the U.N. Security Council should make water the top concern. Until now, the Security Council has treated water as a factor in other crises, such as conflict in Sudan or the impact of global warming. The study says that about 3,800 cubic km (910 cubic miles) of fresh water is taken from rivers and lakes every year.  “With about 1 billion more mouths to feed worldwide by 2025, global agriculture alone will require another 1,000 cubic km (240 cubic miles) of water per year,” it states.  That increase is “equal to the annual flow of 20 Niles or 100 Colorado Rivers”, according to the report, also backed by the U.N. University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNWEH) and Canada’s Gordon Foundation.

The world population now is over 7 billion.


The report says the greatest growth in demand for water will be in China, the United States and India due to high population growth, increasing irrigation and economic growth. “By 2030, demand for water in India and China, the most populous nations on Earth, will exceed their current supplies,” the report said.

Global warming, blamed on human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, will aggravate the problems. “We say in the U.N. system that climate change is all about water,” said Zafar Adeel, director of UNWEH. Severe weather events – such as droughts, floods, mudslides or downpours – are becoming more frequent.

UN-Water, which coordinates water-related efforts by the United Nations, will organize a meeting of foreign ministers this month and separate talks among experts on September 25 to look at ways to address concerns over water.

The report said there are already examples of water-related conflicts, for instance between Israelis and Palestinians over aquifers, between Egypt and other nations sharing the Nile, or between Iran and Afghanistan over the Hirmand River.

One billion people have no fresh water and 2 billion lack basic sanitation. About 4,500 children die of water-related diseases every day – the equivalent of 10 jumbo jets falling out of the sky with no survivors.

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