China conference

Posted: 13 December 2000

Shortages of freshwater are already undermining the development potential of many countries around the world. But the future looks even bleaker, unless governments and the international community can forge workable solutions to the world's growing shortage of available freshwater. An international symposium, held in Tianjin, China in May 2000 underscored the challenges facing the planet:

  • Water consumed by industry and agriculture increased 20-fold over the past century.
  • Each individual, on average, uses 10 times more water today than their ancestors a century ago. This is due directly to development and urbanization, with more people having access to piped water in the home and flush toilets or sanitary latrines.
  • The United Nations warned that by 2025, over one-third of the world's population - roughly 2.8 billion people would lack access to safe drinking water.
  • In China, some 600 cities are already facing water shortages, with 100-including Beijing - mired in a deepening water crisis.
  • More than half of Africa's population lacks access to safe drinking water and two-thirds do not have proper sanitation facilities.
  • Some 830 million people living in Asia and the Pacific lack access to safe drinking water and 2 billion (out of 3.5 billion) do not have adequate sanitation facilities.

The symposium concluded that better water management between competing users was important and that proper pricing of water resources was essential if demand were to be contained and pollution reduced.

For further information on China, see Water challenge for China.