World Population Hits 7 Billion: Puts Strain on Water Resources
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Bonn2011 Nexus Conference // World Population Hits 7 Billion: Puts Strain on Water Resources

With the world's population expected to reach 7 billion on October 31, supplying resources like water, energy and food is also expected to reach new levels of strain and scarcity.

"Seven billion will clearly be a serious challenge," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying. "But depending on how we address this, in a comprehensive manner it can be both an opportunity and challenge."

Among the issues are the need to supply more people with water, food and energy. An estimated 50 percent increase in food and energy production will be needed by 2030, while global demand for freshwater is expected to increase by 40 percent.

There are already nearly 1 billion people lacking access to clean, potable water in the world and "this number is expected to increase another five-fold by 2050," according to the United Nations Development Program.

A new report on the water-food-energy nexus from the World Resource Institute (WRI), the Coca-Cola Company and iSciences, compiles information the WRI gathered with help from its partners in the Aqueduct project, which includes General Electric, The Coca-Cola Company, Bloomberg, The Dow Chemical Company, Talisman Energy, United Technologies Corporation and DuPont.

The report will be presented at the upcoming Bonn2011 Conference on "The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus — Solutions for the Green Economy."

The Coca-Cola Company donated its previously proprietary global geospatial maps and information for the project.

"WRI incorporated these maps of baseline (2000) and projected future (2025, 2050, 2095) water stress onto the Aqueduct platform in August 2011," said report author and WRI Senior Associate Charles Iceland.

"The Aqueduct project, supported by The Coca-Cola Company, has developed a number of additional geospatial maps for the Bonn2011 Nexus conference that illustrate the inter-relationship of water, food and energy worldwide," according to Iceland.

The Aqueduct project chose to focus on the water-food-energy nexus because these resources are "basic necessities of life that help support robust economies and stable political systems," Iceland said, adding that expected discrepancies in supply will lead to a societal correction that could be a soft landing (new technologies and investments) or a hard landing (increased death rates and economic contraction), depending upon what actions are taken now.

Joe Rozza, Global Water Resource Sustainability Manager for the Coca-Cola Company, told OOSKAnews that "water is the life blood of our business."

Balancing rising demand and competition over water and energy is the future of the business, he said.

Coca-Cola has included closing the water access gap in its development goals. According to Rozza, the company wants to conduct business in an environmentally and socio-economically sustainable manner.

One way to do this is to make sure water use, which in itself is not bad, is done intelligently, he said.

To look at the water-energy nexus, WRI, Coca-Cola and iSciences overlaid the locations of thermal, nuclear and hydropower plants worldwide onto their water stress maps.

"The results show that around the year 2000, 18 percent of global power plant design capacity was located in areas of 'medium-high', 'high' or 'extremely high' water stress. By 2025, 29 percent of global power plant design capacity will see water stress conditions grow 'significantly worse', 'extremely worse' or #exceptionally worse,'" under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change A1B scenario (a scenario based on a more integrated world, with a balanced emphasis on all energy sources), according to the report's analysis.

For the water-food nexus, the analysis overlaid locations of all cultivated crops worldwide onto the water stress maps.

This showed that 23 percent of global cultivated crops and 40 percent of irrigated crops were in water stress areas in 2000, and by 2025, this is expected to worsen.

By 2025, 49 percent of total global cultivated crops and 73 percent of irrigated crops will see water stress conditions grow "significantly worse," "extremely worse," or "exceptionally worse" under the IPCC A1B scenario.

"The agriculture and power generation sectors can expect to see a significant deterioration in water stress conditions by 2025 in many parts of the world," Iceland said.

"Ensuring continued food and energy production at current levels represents a daunting challenge. It is unlikely, moreover, that anything resembling a business-as-usual scenario will allow us to meet the significantly higher food and energy demands currently forecasted for 2050.

"Meeting water, food and energy challenges will require dynamic institutions that can balance equity, efficiency and sustainability considerations; prices that reflect the true value of water, including the water embedded in food and energy; other market and regulatory incentives that enable more efficient production and use of water, food and energy and decrease environmental externalities; innovative technologies; and robust, local-level information that can enable both public and private sector decision makers to accurately assess and respond to growing water, food and energy risk," he said.

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