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Experts Say Water Shortages Affect One-Third of World Population

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

A new report says one-third of all people in the world face some form of water shortage. Experts had warned this would happen -- but not until two thousand twenty-five.

Sometimes the shortages are caused by too much water use. Groundwater levels fall; rivers get drier and drier. Other times the water is there, but communities do not have the resources to get enough.

The report is called the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture. It was released Monday at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

The report examines fifty years of policies and practices in water use and development in agriculture. Seven hundred experts around the world gathered the information over the past five years.

Farming uses a lot of water, but it may be surprising just how much. Seventy-four percent of all freshwater used goes to agriculture. Industry uses eighteen percent. Communities use only eight percent.

Where the water is stored may also be surprising. Sixty-five percent of all freshwater is held in soil, the result of rain. Thirty-five percent is in rivers and lakes and in aquifers deep underground.

The researchers call for more productive use of rainwater. Seventy percent of all cropland depends on rain. Capturing rainwater and using plowing methods that save water are two ways to make better use of each liter of rain that falls.

The report identifies areas where better use of water could do the most good. These include poor areas. Investments in water resources could help at least eight hundred million people who depend on farming but have limited water supplies.

The report says areas where competition for water is high -- like Egypt, Pakistan and China -- also need more productive methods of water use.

Irrigation projects in undeveloped areas can change local economies. And, finally, developed areas where water resources have been overused need new plans to limit decreasing supplies.

The report says better use of water through irrigation has helped to increase grain productivity and economic growth. But world demand for food is expected to almost double by two thousand fifty as the population grows. That means farmers will need to do even more to use water productively.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. You can read and hear our reports online at I'm Mario Ritter.