By Ben Gruber
Cambridge, MASS (Reuters) - A new study points to the risk that China and India will be facing severe water shortages due to a perfect storm of economic growth, climate change, and demands of fast growing populations by mid century.
Within 35 years, the countries where roughly half the world's population lives may be facing what scientists are calling a "high risk of severe water stress". That translates into billions of people having access to a lot less water than they do today, according to a new study from MIT.
"There is about a one in three chance that if we take no action to mitigate climate or to do anything to curtail any of the factors that go into this water stress metric, there is a one in three chance that you will reach this unsustainable situation by the middle of the century," said Adam Schlosser, a senior research scientist who co-authored the paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.
"It's very important to show that all things being equal, all things not changing, if we continue with what we are doing now we are running along a very dangerous pathway," he added.
The scientists simulated hundreds of scenarios looking into the future and found that on average, the water basins that feed economic growth in China and India will have less water than they do today. At the same time, they say pressure on water resources will continue to grow as populations increase, creating an unsustainable scenario where supply loses out to demand.
"We are looking at a region where nations are really at a very rapid developing stage or they are at the precipice of a very rapid development stage and so you really can't ignore the growth effect, you just can't, particularly when it comes to resources," said Schlosser.
But overshadowing everything else, they say, is climate change. While some models show that the effects of climate change could potentially benefit water resources in Asia, the majority point in the opposite direction.
Schlosser and his colleagues believe it will only exacerbate an already gloomy outlook for the future.