The World Bank has warned that the economy will ultimately be undermined by changes in the way water acts around the planet. Shifting rainfall patterns will bring drought to regions that currently enjoy abundant rainwater; while other areas – like the UK – will be subjected to more frequent and intense flooding. Around the planet 85 percent of our urban settlements, together with a large part of our industry, are threatened by sea level rise. As these threats are realised, we face being plunged into permanent economic decline:
“The combined effects of growing populations, rising incomes, and expanding cities will see demand for water rising exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain.
“Unless action is taken soon, water will become scarce in regions where it is currently abundant – such as Central Africa and East Asia – and scarcity will greatly worsen in regions where water is already in short supply – such as the Middle East and the Sahel in Africa. These regions could see their growth rates decline by as much as 6% of GDP by 2050 due to water-related impacts on agriculture, health, and incomes.”
On the positive side, the World Bank argues that if we take concerted action on water stewardship, we can offset much of the damage. Whether governments around the world are up to the task is a moot point.