Global access to safe drinking water likely to decline next year

Posted: Friday 27th November 2009

Long term impact on global economic growth likely.

The world population’s access to safe drinking water could decline as early as next year, according to research by HaloSource, a leading clean water and anti-microbial technology company.

The research also supports the strong correlation between access to safe drinking water and economic growth and means that falling access levels may affect global economic growth by 2050.

In spite of major initiatives and financial commitments by national governments, water institutions and businesses, access to safe drinking water is expected to start declining next year. By the middle of the century, it’s likely to fall below 1997 levels, the year of the United Nation’s first World Water Conference when the international community launched its first attempt to increase access to safe drinking water.

The research shows a strong correlation between access to safe drinking water and economic growth, suggesting that per capita growth can be expected to fall when less than 70% of the world population has access to safe water. The emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China are expected to be affected first, possibly as early as 2015 and this is likely to have wider implications for the global economy.

The research uses data sourced from a range of international organisations, analysed using statistical techniques reviewed by Professor Geoffrey Wood of the Cass Business School in London. The findings show that:

§ The rate of improvement in access to safe drinking water has long been in decline; the percentage of the world’s population with access to safe drinking water rose by 11.1% between 1970 and 1975, but grew by only 2.4% between 2000 and 2006.

§ In 2008, over one billion people lacked access to safe drinking water and, on current trends, this number is likely to increase.

§ Reduced supplies of freshwater resulting from climate change and over use are leaving more nations facing chronic water shortages. By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions.

§ The emerging market economies are expected to be first to suffer from a decline in access to safe drinking water. This could happen as early as 2015.

§ There is an important role for industry, governments and supra-national agencies in promoting conservation and in increasing the supplies of safe drinking water through investment in technology.

§ Point of use water purification is expected to make a major contribution to increasing access to safe drinking water around the world.

John Kaestle, CEO of HaloSource, commented, “Over the last 30 years there has been a concerted effort by a range of international bodies to improve global access to safe drinking water. During that time it has become increasingly clear that access is not only matter of survival but that it also has profound social and economic impacts. But efforts to improve access have been stymied by rising water demand from agriculture, industry and for domestic use combined with declining supplies as a result of climate change.”

“Our research shows how serious a continued decline in access to safe drinking water could be for the world economy. We need to exploit every avenue to address the water shortages. While large scale clean water projects clearly have an important role to play, they are expensive and capital intensive, particularly in areas where population density is low. And the opportunities for purified water to be subsequently contaminated in storage or transfer mean that they are not always as effective as planned. Against this dilemma, “point of use purification” approaches are affordable, simple and practical.”

“Our research demonstrates the need for a concerted effort to invest further in water conservation and improved supply of safe drinking water throughout the world.”

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