U.S. Water News Online
TOKYO -- Most of the world's water crises can be resolved,
but would require political will and spending from $50 billion to
$100 billion a year, the United Nations' top envoy on water issues
Gordon Young, coordinator of the Paris-based U.N. World Water
Assessment Program, warned that crises ranging from contaminated
drinking water to polluted rivers and groundwater reserves threaten
the lives of tens of thousands of people every day.
According to U.N. statistics, more than 200 million people every
year suffer from water-related diseases and about 2.2 million of them
-- mostly the poor -- die. About 20 percent of the earth's population
of 6 billion lacks access to safe drinking water.
``If we were to take relatively small amounts of extra money, we
could more or less solve most of the world's water problems,'' Young
told a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
``The difficulty is having the political will to do it.''
Young, who was in Tokyo to present the 600-page U.N. World Water
Development report ahead of the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto
later this month, said the scale of the problem is enormous.
To reach the United Nations' goal of halving the number of people
without access to water for nourishment and hygiene by 2015, 270,000
people would have to be provided with safe drinking water and 340,000
people would have to see improvements in sanitation every day, Young
In the report, the United Nations predicted as many as 7 billion
people in 60 countries could face a water shortage by 2050 -- when
the global population is expected to reach 9.3 billion -- as climate
changes aggravate droughts or increase rainfall and temperatures.
As natural sources are tapped to near limits, international
conflicts over water rights may boil over, the report said.
Disagreements over water underlie the hostilities between states,
from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East to the
Colorado River in the United States and Mexico to the Nile River,
which runs through nine African countries, said Young.
The U.N. report also divides countries into those with water
resources and those without.
Kuwait, the Gaza strip, the United Arab Emirates, the Bahamas and
Qatar have the least fresh water reserves per person among 180
countries and territories assessed, and -- with the exception of the
U.S. state of Alaska and Denmark's Greenland -- French Guiana,
Iceland, Guyana, Suriname and Congo have the most.
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