- By Carolyn O'HaraCarolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.
It’s World Water Week. You’ve heard it before, but if oil dominated the 20th century, water will dominate the 21st. The folks at the International Water Management Institute have put out a new report, and while they stress that the world isn’t running out of water, they do want to alarm you. In case you didn’t know, there is a world water crisis. And it’s largely because our diets are changing.
Check out these stats:
Imagine a channel of water a meter deep, a kilometre wide, and 7 million kilometres long—long enough to encircle the globe 180 times. That’s the prodigious amount of water it takes each year to produce 3,000 calories of food a day for each of the world’s 6.1 billion people.
Broken down into smaller quantities, a calorie of food takes a liter of water to produce. A kilo of grain takes 500-4,000 liters, a kilo of industrially produced meat 10,000 liters. Surprising numbers, indeed. Add 2-3 billion people by 2050 and accommodate their changing diets from cereals to more meat, and that will add another 5 million kilometres to the channel of water needed to feed the world’s people. Where will that water come from?
And they’ve put together this map of water scarcity. FP noted some of the countries highlighted here when we put together a List of impending water crises.
Ben Pauker is executive editor at Foreign Policy. Ben came to FP in May 2010 from World Policy Journal, where he was managing editor from 2007-2010. A native of New York, he grew up in Brazil, Australia, and Thailand and has written for Harper's, the Economist, and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications. He is the co-founder of the Gastronauts, the world’s largest adventurous-eating club, and, in the course of reporting but mainly to see if it was possible, has smuggled small arms out of Central Africa.| Feature |