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Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water use and Water Pollution

A Report of the Water Working Group of the International Resource Panel

image of Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water use and Water Pollution

As the World population approaches nine billion, nearly half of all people could suffer water stress by 2030 as a result of accelerating urbanization, new consumption habits and climate change. This report provides option for a viable and sustainable alternative; one that swaps economic growth fuelled by escalating water use and environmental degradation for a more durable model of social, economic and environmental resilience. If the world continues on its current course, by 2030, annual demand for water in North America and Sub-Saharan Africa could increase by 42 and 283 per cent respectively, compared to 2005 levels. That is why the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to decouple economic growth from water consumption and pollution by integrating water related issues across each of the 17 goals and making a specific commitment that “ensures availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

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Conclusions and recommendations

Decoupling pressure on water resources from economic growth is key to sustainable development because of the uneven geographical distribution of global water resources and the cost of transporting water. In regions where water resources are scarce and the rate of withdrawal higher than the rate of replenishment through the hydrological cycle, there is a danger of depleting the resource leading to unsustainable resource use.

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