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A World of Water Woes

Droughts and rising populations are stressing supplies of the precious liquid. Could we be nearing the next major natural resource crisis?

Water may be the source of the next major natural resource crisis. A rising world population; increased demand for water for agriculture, industry, and energy production; and a growing desire for safer and more plentiful water supplies are pressuring existing resources. At the same time, climate change may be reducing the availability of fresh water. Most citizens of Europe and North America have taken for granted access to cheap, safe water. People in Asia, Africa, and Latin America would like to. Will all of us have to start thinking harder about it?

Drought conditions in several parts of the world have increased the attention paid to water resources recently. In the U.S., the drought in the Southeast that began last year is the second-worst in the region's history and has strained state and city governments, including that of Atlanta. Australia, a country where water has always been very limited, has been suffering from a severe dry period. The continuing lack of rainfall in much of Africa has increased fears of famine and war.