With ten years’ experience managing agriculture-oriented mutual funds in Sydney, Australia, Tim Hornibrook is highly knowledgeable about worldwide trends. One of Tim Hornibrook’s areas of concern includes the impact of present and future water shortages.
The United Nations has stated that over the next two decades, demand for fresh water will outpace reliably distributed supplies. Shortages already exist in about 40 percent of the planet. River sources such as the Ganges, Nile, and Yangtze have slowed to a trickle, and some lakes have disappeared almost entirely. In some areas, water is expensive–its heaviness makes transport costly. Urban areas of many developing nations (and some more advanced ones) must import their water, as well as key goods and services. These cities must also bring in food.
But major water usage doesn’t only come from consumers. 70 percent of the world’s available water goes to food production. The water used in production is known as “virtual water.” As the population increases, this demand will only increase; by 2050, it will be 70 to 100 percent higher than the current demand. Compared to water usage for drinking and sanitation, this unseen demand goes unnoticed by the public. Though humans drink about two or three liters of water, each one accounts for some 3,000 liters used in producing food and fiber. The demand for “virtual water” will rise as cities grow. Since the Earth’s supply of fresh water has steadily shrunk and will continue to decrease, further strains on personal economies appear certain.