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Just like oil has in the 20th century, it is most likely that water will become THE most important resource in the 21st century. Humans have been depending on accessibility to water supply since the beginning of civilization but with 7 billion people in the world today and the continuous urbanization and development growth, the quest for water becomes even greater.

The use of water is twice as much compared to the population growth rate, according to Kirsty Jenkinson, of the World Resource Institute, a think tank from Washington, DC. Water utilization is expected to grow in the developing countries with 50% and 18% in the developed world. Much of this increase will be in the poorest countries where people migrate from the countryside to urban areas.

According to Jenkinson, climate change will most probably affect the poorest people first. “It will be a challenge to have enough water for everyone, especially when we reach 9 billion people, expected around 2050”.

There is a lot of water available on Earth, according to Rob Renner, executive director of the Water Research Foundation in Colorado. “The problem is that 97,5% of this water is salt water and of the remaining 2,5% fresh water, two thirds is frozen. The Earth does not dispose of a lot of fluid, fresh water.”

Jenkinson: “Only 8% of the planet’s fresh water reserve goes to domestic use, about 70% is being used for irrigation, and 22% has industrial purposes. Droughts and insufficient rainfall contribute to the so called water risk, and an integral water management which reckons with who needs what type of water is necessary, and also how and where that water can be used most efficiently.”

Food giants, such as Kraft Foods, Sara Lee Corp and Nestle have already announced a price increase due to higher material prices, as a result of droughts, floods and other factors. Water risk is also harmful to nonfood industries, The Gap had a lower profit then expected after a drought in Texas affected cotton crops.

Water risk is more than just a business risk. International aid organizations foresee a catastrophe for people in areas where droughts are rising or increasing uncertainty of water supply.