Publication Date August 24, 2017

Thirsty world must wake up to looming water crisis, expert says

United States
Donneschi Zvonko, 49, harvesting pinot nero grapes in Neive. Due to the high temperatures this year, the winemaker Castello di Neive has started harvesting the grapes three weeks earlier than usual. Photo: Alessandro Penso, New York Times

The world needs to use water more efficiently rather than exhausting invisible underground supplies and blindly exporting “virtual water” to avert a global crisis that would undermine food and energy systems, a leading expert warned.

More than one-third of humanity is water-stressed every year or season, while drought crises are on the rise from California to Ethiopia as the planet warms, said Fred Boltz, who leads The Rockefeller Foundation’s work on science and environment.

“We are really facing a global crisis,” he said, noting that demand is predicted to outstrip supply by 40 percent by 2030.

More people are aware of the risks of pollution and the over-use of rivers and lakes, but many don’t know about the depletion of underground water, which is finite, he said.