Global Perspective: Governments and the private sector tackle water scarcity through policy reform, technology adoption and infrastructure investment
27 May 2019
Global food demand is expected to increase by anywhere between 59% to 98% by 2050. However, global freshwater resources are already overstretched due to climate change and soaring population growth, and it is unclear how agricultural production will keep pace with these challenges. In recent years climate-induced water shortages in urban areas have brought water scarcity to the forefront of public debate, as major cities such as São Paulo, Cape Town, Barcelona have found themselves on the brink of major water crises.
Responding to this, policymakers have started to scrutinise and reform existing agricultural practices, which on average consume approximately 70%
of fresh water supplies around the world. These reforms are part of wider ongoing efforts to conserve precious water resources. Many governments
are now gradually enacting water-saving policies and partnering with private stakeholders to roll out climate-resilient agricultural practices and forward-thinking infrastructure projects.
In the world’s most waterscarce regions, such as the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, climate change-induced disruptions to the earth’s hydrological cycle have driven unprecedented periods of low rainfall. In fact, 14 of the world’s 20 mega-cities are now experiencing water scarcity or drought. On top of that, the challenges of growing populations and decreased rainfall are expected to worsen over time. Some 52% of the world’s projected 9.7bn population will live in waterstressed regions by 2050, according to an MIT study. Increasing water scarcity not only poses a major threat to urban populations, but also presents a potentially significant barrier to economic development for many low- and middle-income economies, especially those that are dependent on agriculture for both domestic consumption and export revenue.