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Backgrounder: State of the world's water resources

03-13-2012 08:23 BJT

MARSEILLE, France, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The world's water resources are facing increasing pressure from soaring demand and climate change, the latest edition of the United Nation's World Water Development Report (WWDR) warned on Monday.

The report, released every three years and now in its fourth edition, was officially unveiled at the Sixth World Water Forum opening Monday in Marseille, southern France.

Here are some key facts and figures about the state of the planet's water resources released in the flagship UN report:

Over 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water. But only 2.5 percent of the water resources is potentially available for human, animal and plant consumption. Moreover, the spatial distribution of fresh water is highly uneven.

Agricultural consumption of water in irrigation and food production accounts for about 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals and may increase by about 19 percent by 2050.

Water is also indispensable for the production of energy and electricity and an integral part of many industrial processes.

The main source of human demand for water comes from urban communities requiring water for drinking, sanitation and drainage.

The world population is predicted to grow to 8.3 billion in 2030 and to 9.1 billion in 2050 and the urban population is forecast to reach 6.3 billion people in 2050 from 3.4 billion in 2009, adding more pressure on the scarce resource.

Over 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources between 1999 and 2010, according to another UN report. But the WWDR said there are 884 million people still using unimproved sources for drinking water and 2.6 billion people without access to improved sanitation. Some estimate 3 billion to 4 billion people do not have access to safe and reliable tap water in their homes.

Water-related hazards account for 90 percent of all natural hazards and are happening with greater frequency and intensity.

As to water quality, human health risks constitute the major concern. Each year, about 3.5 million deaths are related to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene, mainly in developing countries.

It is estimated that over 80 percent of waste water worldwide is not collected or treated, and urban settlements are the main source of point-source pollution.

Global climate change is expected to exacerbate strains on water resources and increase the frequency and severity of droughts and floods.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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