Case Studies from Southern Africa
Chapter 5: Water Accounts: An Economic Perspective on Managing Water Scarcity
5. Water accounts: an economic perspective on managing water scarcity Glenn-Marie Lange, Rashid Hassan and Moortaza Jiwanji 5.1 INTRODUCTION Global water demand has grown rapidly over the past few decades due to population growth as well as increasing per capita water demand. Between 1940 and 1990, withdrawals of fresh water increased more than fourfold, despite improvements in water efficiency (WRI, 1996). With the supply of fresh water limited by the dynamics of the hydrological cycle, in which seawater evaporates and falls over land as precipitation, per capita water availability has been declining, resulting in growing water scarcity in many parts of the world. Increased contamination by pollution has further reduced the supply of fresh water and increased the cost of treatment of available supplies. In much of North Africa and the Middle East, water use is more than 50 per cent of annual renewable supply of fresh water (Gleick, 1998). Groundwater depletion is increasing on all continents and many countries rely increasingly on international water sources, creating a potential for conflict over water in the future. In addition, the scientific community expects climate change to have a major impact on the hydrological cycle, in ways that cannot be predicted at this time. Access to safe drinking water in much of the developing world has improved over the past 20 years and by 1994 nearly three-quarters of this population had drinking water. However, over one billion people still lack safe drinking water, many of them in Africa, where there has been...
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