WWF-Canada: Behind Food Crisis Is a Water Crisis

WWF Director General James Leape told the opening session of World Water Week in Stockholm on Aug. 18 that a world water crisis is a key factor behind current global anxieties over faltering food supplies and rising food costs.

"Behind the world food crisis is a global freshwater crisis, expected to rapidly worsen as climate change impacts intensify," Leape said. "Irrigation-fed agriculture provides 45 percent of the world's food supplies, and without it, we could not feed our planet's population of six billion people."

Many of the world's irrigation areas; however, from wealthy to less developed nations, are highly stressed and drawing more water than rivers and groundwater reserves can sustain.

Freshwater food reserves are declining in the face of the quickening pace of dam construction and unsustainable water extractions from rivers.

"A global treaty for co-operatively managing rivers and lakes that cross or form borders is still languishing in limbo more than a decade after being approved by a clear majority in the United Nations," Leape said.

WWF is to present studies showing the water footprint of the United Kingdom and conference hosts Sweden extends to some of the driest and most under-privileged areas of the world -- but both water exporting and water importing areas can do much to reduce their demand on water resources.

"It is ironic that currently it is not foresight and planning but major natural disasters that lead to significant efforts to repair damaged rivers and wetlands. Foresight and planning now will reduce the risk and damage from future extreme weather events, while having many economic, social and environmental benefits."

More detailed information on WWF's activities at World Water Week can be found at www.panda.org/worldwaterweek.

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