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Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water use and Water Pollution

A Report of the Water Working Group of the International Resource Panel

image of Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water use and Water Pollution

As the World population approaches nine billion, nearly half of all people could suffer water stress by 2030 as a result of accelerating urbanization, new consumption habits and climate change. This report provides option for a viable and sustainable alternative; one that swaps economic growth fuelled by escalating water use and environmental degradation for a more durable model of social, economic and environmental resilience. If the world continues on its current course, by 2030, annual demand for water in North America and Sub-Saharan Africa could increase by 42 and 283 per cent respectively, compared to 2005 levels. That is why the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to decouple economic growth from water consumption and pollution by integrating water related issues across each of the 17 goals and making a specific commitment that “ensures availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

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Making the case for decoupling

This chapter first examines the relationship between water use and economic growth in order to assess whether water use is increasing at a slower rate than economic growth in some countries (in other words, whether relative decoupling is already taking place) and which lessons can be learned from the development process. It then goes on to illustrate why we still need to do more and find new and additional ways to decouple water use from economic growth.

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