The geography of future water challenges
Where in the world will people’s lives be affected by water issues by the year 2050? What is the impact of the growing global population, further urbanisation and climate change on these water risks, the food supply and migration?
This new report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in collaboration with the Clingendael Institute and other Dutch research institutes points to pressure on security and migration arising from too little, too much or polluted water. Many integrated solutions are possible to divert this trend towards a sustainable and climate-resilient world.
The analysis, largely based on modelling, illustrates that pressure on the production of food in already vulnerable areas will increase if current trends were to continue. However, improved water management could increase agricultural production by over 40%, in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, among other areas. Population numbers in flood-prone areas will increase, from over 1 billion to around 1.6 billion. The pollution of rivers and coastal areas is expected to increase, particularly due to the projected doubling of the amount of untreated wastewater being discharged from rapidly growing cities in developing countries.
Drought, flooding and poor sanitary conditions pose the largest water-related challenges. Large parts of Africa could become a hotspot of migration and water-related conflict, due to a combination of strong population growth, increased water shortages and low per-capita income levels. The construction of 3700 new dams for hydropower plants, together with a growing water demand, may increase tensions in transboundary river basin areas.
The report shows that, without improved water policy or adaptation to climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved. It points to the urgent need for large-scale, integrated approaches, emphasising the importance of collaboration between the various stakeholders to initiate and work on solutions. The global landscapes in the search for integrated solutions will be the dryland regions, cities, transboundary river basins, coastal zones and deltas.