Water use must be decoupled from economic growth: UNEP

Demand for water in 2030 is set to outstrip supply by 40%, highlighting the need for governments and industry to radically improve water management, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has said.

If current levels of water consumption and pollution continue, almost half of the world’s population will suffer severe water stress within 14 years, according to a report from the International Resource Panel (IRP), an international consortium of scientists, governments and other groups coordinated by UNEP.

Demand for water is projected to rise 43% in North America and 283% in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, based on 2005 levels, the panel warned. 

It said the predicted rise would force governments to spend $200bn a year on upstream water supply as demand outstrips cheaper forms of supply, up from historic averages of $40–45bn. 

The report highlights countries that have already decoupled water use from economic growth. Water use in Australia declined by 40% between 2001 and 2009, while the economy grew by ...

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