« Economists can highlight and quantify the benefits flowing from water, like hydroelectricity, and help build what we call a baskets of benefits. It is generally easier and more equitable to allocate the benefits than the water itself. Economists also remind us of the need to recover the cost of water delivery, treatment, storage and so on. But we’re often pushed to think in terms of water markets — buying and selling water as a commodity even though this has never happened internationally in a practical sense. As someone who is committed to water emotionally, aesthetically, religiously and for ecosystems, I am reluctant to think of water as just another economic good. ».

Aaron Wolf, geographer, University of Oregon, United-States.

Toward a world of thirst ?

The terms of the equation remain simple: for the next few decades, given the volume of available water, and under the present circumstances, will it be possible to provide enough water to a population forecast to be at least 9 billion by 2050 (according to the medium hypothesis proposed by the United Nations) using a volume which will be roughly the same as it is now?

In the context of stress and scarcity, the challenge will be to find creative ways to manage water resources without emphasizing already existing disputes and conflicts. This is raising important questions: is it reasonable to envisage more long distance water transfer without threatening water reserves and harming environmental balance? Which are the countries and regions that will suffer the most due to lack of water? And in which countries will an important part of the population still have to wait for decades before being supplied with improved water?

This 2008 update of the ‘Vital Water Graphics’ is aimed at giving an overview of the state of water resources in the world and providing answers to these important questions.