The World’s Water Crises

Yes, oil is over $70 a barrel. But what’s the resource that will become increasingly precious – and expensive – in this century? Water. There are a few factors exacerbating the global water crisis: urbanization, population growth, climate change reducing the availability of fresh water, and agriculture that increasingly depends on irrigation. But don’t make the mistake of ...

608480_drought5.jpg
608480_drought5.jpg

Yes, oil is over $70 a barrel. But what's the resource that will become increasingly precious - and expensive - in this century? Water.

There are a few factors exacerbating the global water crisis: urbanization, population growth, climate change reducing the availability of fresh water, and agriculture that increasingly depends on irrigation. But don't make the mistake of believing that regional water issues in, say, South Asia, don't affect someone in North America. Fred Pearce, author of When the Rivers Run Dry, writes that "whenever you buy a T-shirt made of Pakistani cotton, eat Thai rice, or drink coffee from Central America, you are influencing the hydrology of those regions," trading in what he calls "virtual water." The global virtual-water trade is estimated at around 800 million acre-feet a year - the equivalent of 20 Nile Rivers. Survival obviously depends upon water, but so does trade, economic growth, and environmental health.

So, in the FP List this week, we look at four major water crises around the world: China, India, the United States, and Pakistan.

Yes, oil is over $70 a barrel. But what’s the resource that will become increasingly precious – and expensive – in this century? Water.

There are a few factors exacerbating the global water crisis: urbanization, population growth, climate change reducing the availability of fresh water, and agriculture that increasingly depends on irrigation. But don’t make the mistake of believing that regional water issues in, say, South Asia, don’t affect someone in North America. Fred Pearce, author of When the Rivers Run Dry, writes that “whenever you buy a T-shirt made of Pakistani cotton, eat Thai rice, or drink coffee from Central America, you are influencing the hydrology of those regions,” trading in what he calls “virtual water.” The global virtual-water trade is estimated at around 800 million acre-feet a year – the equivalent of 20 Nile Rivers. Survival obviously depends upon water, but so does trade, economic growth, and environmental health.

So, in the FP List this week, we look at four major water crises around the world: China, India, the United States, and Pakistan.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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