The phrase ‘water crisis’ often evokes images of cracked soil and shriveled crops or towns and fields completely submerged. And while some regions of the world are frequently subjected to the devastation caused by droughts and floods, water crises come in other forms with a far more global reach.
A new study by CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems’ partner, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and Veolia has highlighted the extent of a different water crisis: deteriorating water quality. The study estimates that by 2050, increased use of nitrogen and phosphorous will result in up to 1 in 3 people being exposed to a high risk of water pollution. Water quality will deteriorate as the population continues to grow, increasing demand for water, food and sanitation. The impacts on health, economic development and ecosystems are expected to be far-reaching.
The study does point to a solution, one that will increase both ecological and social resilience: sustainable agriculture. More efficient use of nutrient inputs and innovations that close the nutrient cycle can help, as will urban improvements such as wastewater recycling and reuse.