An article by Agence France-Presse, Singapore Press Holdings Limited.

UN report: Half of world’s population will be in areas of severe water stress.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it stated that the need for clean water and for electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for fresh water and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressure on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report stated.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

“Lack of access to water, sanitation and sustainable energy is an aggravating factor for poverty,” Mr Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation, told a conference at the United Nations University in Tokyo.

“We need to adopt more integrated policies and innovative strategies to tackle the issues.”

About 20 per cent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the UN report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more fresh water will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production – 90 per cent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future , saying global water demand is likely to increase by 55 per cent by 2050.

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