In the 2012 United Nations report on freshwater resources, the World Water Development Report has said about four billion people lack access to safe water. It said the figure could get worse as the global population is likely to reach 9.1 billion in 2050, and 68 per cent of these 9 billion people would live in cities.
The report said in many countries water availability for agriculture was already limited, and it was set to worsen, as agriculture needs to increase production to cater for 9 billion people. It said these issues, amongst others, would substantially increase water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water resources.
It said as well as economic growth, the diets of many people are shifting from predominantly starch-based ones to meat and dairy, and these require more water to produce.
The report said producing one kilogramme of rice, for example, requires approximately 3,500 litres of water and one kilogramme of beef requires approximately 15,000 litres. It said the Asia-Pacific region is home to 60 percent of the world's population, but it has only 36 percent of its water resources.
It said the European and North American populations consume a considerable amount of virtual water embedded in imported food and other products. It said each person in North America and Europe (excluding former Soviet Union countries) consumes at least 3,000 litres per day of virtual water in imported food, compared to 1,400 litres per day in Asia, and 1,100 litres per day in Africa.
The report said various estimates suggest that approximately 3.5 earth-sized planets would be needed to sustain a global population to achieve the current lifestyle of the average European or North American. It said nearly all Arab countries suffer from water scarcity, with water consumption rates exceeding total renewable water supplies.
The report stated that India is growing maize, sugar cane, lentils and rice in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique to feed its domestic market, while European firms are seeking 3.9 million hectares of African land to meet their 10 per cent biofuel target by 2015.
It said the amount of water required for biofuel plantations could be particularly devastating to regions such as West Africa, where water is already scarce, given that one litre of ethanol from sugarcane requires 18.4 litres of water and 1.52 square metres of land. – GNA