Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water use and Water Pollution

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

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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.”




Growing demand for water from households, industry, agriculture, and to maintain the health of our environmental services poses rapidly growing challenges for the rational management of this resource. Uncertainty regarding the future availability of water and universal access to it is increasing on all continents. Water (availability/scarcity/ management) is one of the top global risks according to the 2015 World Economic Forum Global Risk Report. By 2030, the world could face a 40% shortfall in water supply if no changes are made in how water is managed. The total demand for agricultural products in 2030 is expected to grow by around 60% to meet the demands arising from growing populations and higher incomes.


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