The amount of water used to produce
food and goods imported by developed countries is worsening water shortages in
the developing world, a report says.
The report, focusing on the UK,
says two-thirds of the water used to make UK imports is used outside its
The Engineering the Future alliance
of professional engineering bodies says this is unsustainable, given population
growth and climate change.
It says countries such as the UK
must help poorer nations curb water use.
“We must take account of how
our water footprint is impacting on the rest of the world,” said Professor
Roger Falconer, director of the Hydro-Environmental Research Centre at Cardiff
University and a member of the report’s steering committee.
“If we are to prevent the
‘perfect storm’, urgent action is necessary.”
The term perfect storm was used
last year by the UK government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, to
describe future shortages of energy, food and water.
Forecasts suggest that when the
world’s population soars beyond 8 billion in 20 years time, the global demand
for food and energy will jump by 50 per cent, with the need for fresh water
rising by 30 per cent.
But developing countries are
already using significant proportions of their water to grow food and produce
goods for consumption in the West, the report says.
“If the water crisis becomes critical, it will
pose a serious threat to the UK’s future development because of the impact it
would have on our access to vital resources,” said Professor Peter
Guthrie, head of the Centre for Sustainable Development at Cambridge
University, who chaired the steering group.