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Global Water Shortages To Exacerbate Conflict, Hinder Economic Growth, U.S. Officials Warn

“As we have been hearing, global water shortages are poised to exacerbate regional conflict and hobble economic growth. Yet the problem is growing worse, and is threatening to deal devastating blows to health, according to top water officials from the U.S. State Department and [USAID] who spoke before a House panel hearing” on Thursday, Scientific American’s “Observations” blog reports. “Globally, the world is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people unable to reach or afford safe drinking water by 2015, but it still must make strides to improve global sanitation, says Aaron Salzberg, the State Department’s special coordinator for water resources,” the blog writes, adding, “In addition to supply problems, unclean water causes more than four billion cases of diarrhea a year which lead to roughly 2.2 million deaths, and most are in children under the age of five.”

“The hearing comes on the heels of stark reminders of the current water shortages that are apparent across the globe,” the “Observations” states, noting, “Pakistan, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, is on the brink of crisis,” and “China and India are also experiencing unprecedented strain on water supplies, due to water shortages fueled by climate change, urbanization and massive industrial growth.” The blog highlights USAID’s efforts to address water supply, noting the agency “will work with other countries to use emerging science and technology to track the problem and prepare communities to adapt” and it “expects its programs to provide a minimum of 10 million people with sustainable access to improved water supply by 2018.” The blog continues, “At the hearing, House members pressed speakers for information on tools they might need to better address the problem,” adding, “Answers, however, are challenging to come by, says [Christian Holmes, global water coordinator for USAID], ‘It really doesn’t lend itself to easy fixes.'” The blog notes, “Despite a continued focus on water issues, barely a dent has been made in the problem, says Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D), who [Wednesday] introduced new legislation with Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) geared toward furthering U.S. water assistance and ensuring that work will have measurable impact” (Maron, 8/1).