A new report from the International Resource Panel (IRP) has found that by today's standards almost half of the global population could suffer severe water distress in the next 15 years.

The IRP examined factors such as global population growth, increased urbanization, climate change, and a shift in food consumption. All are causing increased consumption and decreased availability, which, IRP predicts, could reach a point where demand will exceed supply by 40% by 2030.

Accordingly, governments would be forced to spend $200 billion per year on upstream water supply, up from the historic average of $40 to $45 billion. The authors of the report conclude that if the world is to stave off such a drastic outcome, efforts to decouple water use from economic growth will need to be strengthened. This has already shown to be possible in some countries, such as Australia, which saw water consumption decline by 40% between 2001 and 2009 at the same time as the economy grew by 30%.

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