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Water Shortages Continue to Threaten the World's Growing Population

Scientists are working on a new way to turn sea water into drinking water.

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The lack of clean drinking water is a major problem worldwide. The World Health Organization says more than one billion people live in areas where renewable water resources are not available. The problem is especially serious in Asia and the Pacific. A United Nations report says water availability in that area is the second lowest in the world, after Africa.

Nearly seven hundred thousand people in Asia and the Pacific lack safe drinking water. The U.N. report notes that the world's poorest countries are also the ones that use the most water for agriculture. Agriculture uses about eighty percent of the water in the Asia-Pacific area. There has also been an increase in water used for industry. China and India more than tripled their industrial water use between nineteen ninety-two and two thousand two.

The lack of clean drinking water around the world forces millions of people to drink unsafe water. This leads to an increase in diseases like diarrhea, the second leading cause of death in children under five. Floods, droughts, pollution and climate change have created even more problems.

The Millennium Development Goals for two thousand fifteen call for a fifty percent decrease in the number of people without safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Scientists, governments and aid organizations around the world are increasing their efforts to meet these goals. Still the U.N. says there is much work to be done. During its yearly World Water Day observance last month it called on the international community to work together to solve the water crisis. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are doing just that.

The American and South Korean researchers are investigating a new technology for turning sea water into drinking water. The new technology is called ion concentration polarization. The process uses electricity to help separate electrically charged salt particles from water to make it drinkable.

The researchers tested their desalination process on a computer chip the size of a postage stamp. The chip removed ninety-nine percent of the salt and other harmful substances from water samples. So far the method purifies only small amounts of water. But the researchers say it may someday be available as a personal water purification product.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. I'm Steve Ember.