This study focuses on how, by 2030, competing demands for scarce water resources can be met and sustained. It is sponsored, written, and supported by a group of private sector companies and institutions who are concerned about water scarcity as an increasing business risk, a major economic threat that cannot be ignored, and a global priority that affects human well-being. After careful quantitative analysis of the problem, this report provides some answers on the path to water resource security. It first quantifies the situation and shows that in many regions, current supply will be inadequate to meet the water requirements. However, as a central thesis, it also shows that meeting all competing demands for water is in fact possible at reasonable cost. This outcome will not emerge naturally from existing market dynamics, but will require a concerted effort by all stakeholders, the willingness to adopt a total resource view where water is seen as a key, cross-sectoral input for development and growth, a mix of technical approaches, and the courage to undertake and fund water sector reforms.
- In just 20 years, demand for water will be 40% higher than it is today, and more than 50% higher in the most rapidly developing countries.
- By 2030, under an average economic growth scenario and if no efficiency gains are assumed, global water requirements would grow from 4,500 billion m3 today (or 4.5 thousand cubic kilometers) to 6,900 billion m3.
- If "business-as-usual" and costly supply-side solutions are insufficient to close the water gap, the result in many cases could be that fossil reserves are depleted, water reserved for environmental needs is drained, or -- more simply -- some of the demand will go unmet, so that the associated economic or social benefits will simply not occur.
- Across the four regions under study -- India, China, Sao Paulo, and South Africa -- cost-effective and technical solutions would require $19 billion per annum in incremental capital investment by 2030 -- just 0.06% of their combined forecast GDP for 2030; and when scaled to total global water demand, this implies an annual capital requirement of approximately $50 to $60 billion to close the water resource availability gap, if done in the least costly way available, almost 75% less than a supply-only solution.
- The application of economic tools and taking into account of demand-side efficiencies will help governments and other key stakeholders create a matrix of options from which to chart pathways of development that balance water supply and demand.