Scientists have been warning world leaders about an imminent global water crisis for some time, and while politicians haven't seemed to take much notice, some corporations are becoming increasingly concerned that this may be a reality in the very near future, and are urging governments to take action.
In his keynote speech at the annual City Food Lecture held in London recently, Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke, used the opportunity to draw his audience's attention to the issue of water scarcity, and the impact that this will have on the food industry. In his address titled, 'Water - the linchpin of food security', Mr Bulcke expressed his concern that the over-utilization of fresh water sources not only poses a severe threat to the environment, but it also threatens political and social stability.
Bulcke foresees that there will be wide-scale food shortages due to water scarcity over the next 15-20 years, anticipating that global cereal production will drop by 30% by 2030. A drop in global production of this magnitude is equivalent to the entire amount of grain produced by the U.S. and India combined. He urges governments, relevant role players in the food industry, together with other stakeholders, to act now to avoid a crisis.
"It is only by working together with policymakers, civil society, agriculture and other stakeholders at local and international levels that we can develop effective, coherent and concrete action," Bulcke told the City Food Lecture attendees. "This is an issue that must be addressed urgently. I am convinced it can be solved. We should give water the right priority, the right value."
A drop in crop production, together with a growing world population, will lead to increased demand on a dwindling resource. This will not only cause food shortages, but will force the price of food products to soar.
"Higher prices for staple cereals are not so much of a problem for the West, or for most people in Europe. But a price increase of more than 200% will certainly be felt when you have to spend 40 to 60% of your income on food, mostly staple food."
In his book Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity, author Lester R. Brown, President of Earth Policy Institute, echos these sentiments, explaining in great detail why the world is in serious trouble on the food front.
According to Brown, ''Time is running out. The world may be much closer to an unmanageable food shortage – replete with soaring food prices, spreading food unrest, and ultimately political instability– than most people realize.''
Worldwide droughts, similar to that experienced last year, may become more common due to climate change, leading to water shortages, famine, and food shortages, which could lead to a world-wide humanitarian crisis that could potentially spark civil unrest, wars, and result in economic collapse.
Governments need to take steps to manage and conserve our precious water resources more efficiently; they also need to proactively seek ways to mitigate future water shortages through implementing available technologies such as desalinization and wastewater treatment plants to utilize all available water sources, as every drop counts.
Water is life – no living thing can live without it, neither can we.