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UN calls for improved management as demand for water rising
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The demand for water has never been greater and the vital resource, which plays a crucial role in development and economic growth, needs better management, a UN world water development report says.

The 3rd edition of the report named "Water in a Changing World" was released Monday during the 5th World Water Forum, the biggest water-related event in the world, currently under way in the largest Turkish city of Istanbul.

The report offers a comprehensive assessment of the planet's fresh water resources and the access to safe drinking water.

Sanitation remains inadequate in much of the developing world, and an estimated 5 billion people, or 76 percent of the world population, may still be without improved sanitation in 2030, it said.

Demand for water increasing

The report said people's demand for water has never been as great as it is today due to population growth and mobility, rising living standards, changes in food consumption and increased energy production, especially biofuels.

The world's population, currently estimated at 6.6 billion, is growing by about 80 million people each year, which means demand for freshwater is increasing by 64 billion cubic meters a year.

Population growth has put agriculture by far the greatest consumer of water, accounting for 70 percent of all water consumption, compared with 20 percent for industry and 10 percent for domestic use. The report said water demand for agriculture worldwide would increase by 70 percent to 90 percent by 2050.

Another reason for increasing water demand is changes in lifestyles and eating habits in recent years, in particular an increase in the share of meat and dairy products consumed in emerging countries. The production of a kilo of wheat requires 800 to 4,000 liters of water, while a kilo of beef takes 2,000 to 16, 000 liters.

The production of biofuels has also increased sharply in recent years, which needs for large quantities of water and fertilizers to grow the crops. The production of ethanol, 77 billion liters in 2008, tripled between 2000 and 2007, and is expected to reach 127 billion liters by 2017.

The report warns the global warming will intensify and accelerate global hydrological cycle, which will increase rates of evaporation and precipitation. By 2020, between 75 million to 250 million people may experience increased water stress due to climate change.

Improved water management needed

According to the report, improved water management is of vital important. The policy-makers should integrate their water resource management strategies with their development plans.

Key water issues need decision-makers from all sectors, including agriculture, energy, trade and finance, as they all have a decisive impact to water management. Partnerships among governments, the private sector and civil society are important.

"The report warned that we are facing a severe water shortage," said Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"With increasing shortages, good governance is more than ever essential for water management. Combating poverty also depends on our ability to invest in this resource," said Matsuura.

The 5th World Water Forum convenes from March 16 to 22 in Turkey with the theme of "Bridging Divides for Water," attracting a record of 28,000 people all over the world, aimed to facilitate solutions to the world's water problems and promote cooperation among states and organizations.

Loic Fauchon, President of the World Water Council (WWC), has called on all policy makers and international decision-makers to shoulder their responsibilities of the sustainable development of water.

(Xinhua News Agency March 17, 2009)

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