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The discrepancy between the two reports is that the earlier analysis was done on a country-by-country basis, while the more recent report provides a detailed analysis of natural water basins. Some of those, like the Yellow River basin that provides a significant portion of China’s food, does not have enough fresh water to support more people or any increase in activity.
The report, which drew on the expertise of more than 700 experts, outlines several steps that can increase the availability and effective use of fresh water, especially among the world’s poor people, who are often most critically affected by drought and fresh water scarcity.
Many of those revolve around collecting and storing rainwater instead of letting it go to waste, focusing on rain-fed agriculture instead of irrigation, and using hardier crops. The experts who contributed to the report said rain-fed agriculture is the fastest and cheapest way to end malnutrition, reduce poverty among farmers, halt the invasion of natural habitats and end the scarcity of fresh water.
But the report also warns that action must be taken immediately to achieve positive change. If the right steps are taken now, the growth in global use of fresh water could slow by 50 percent. If nothing changes, twice as much fresh water will be required to feed the world’s people by 2050.
“Business as usual is not an option,” said David Molden, who coordinated the report and works for the International Water Management Institute.