Water shortages could affect 5bn people by 2050, UN report warns

Conflict and civilisational threats likely unless action is taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs

A resident walks with a dog across the drying bottom of the Paraibuna dam, Brazil.
 A resident walks with a dog across the drying bottom of the Paraibuna dam, part of the Cantareira water system that provides greater Sao Paulo with most of its water, in August 2014. Photograph: Roosevelt Cassio / Reuters/Reuters

More than 5 billion people could suffer water shortages by 2050 due to climate change, increased demand and polluted supplies, according to a UN report on the state of the world’s water.

The comprehensive annual study warns of conflict and civilisational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs.

The World Water Development Report – released in drought-hit Brasília – says positive change is possible, particularly in the key agricultural sector, but only if there is a move towards nature-based solutions that rely more on soil and trees than steel and concrete.

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