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Aruba, September 3, 2012 - The Chinese middle class is already larger than the entire population of the United States. Africa is not too far behind with a third of its population – nearly 350 million people – having now joined its social middle ranks.
This is good news. The leap forward in quality of life for so many millions is something to celebrate. But, we still only have one planet to satisfy the demand of the growing middle classes to buy, drive and eat more.
Greater social mobility also means greater demand for water. An increase in national income is linked with a country’s access to a secure and safe water supply. Security of supply and the stability it brings is critical for businesses to flourish. Clean water also brings with it the economic as well as human benefit associated with improved health. And water security is fundamental in the provision of another pillar of economic development: adequate food supply.

To grow food at the volumes we need to feed the world’s increasing population, and support their improving quality of life, requires a lot of water. This year’s World Water Week in Stockholm is tackling this conundrum: the nexus between water scarcity and food security. Currently over 70 percent of fresh water withdrawals are for the production of food. The growing number of mouths to feed combined with changing lifestyles and diets means that unless there are significant changes in how we produce and consume, our farmers will have to increase production by about 70 percent by 2050. Some straightforward ‘back of envelope’ maths tells us – that’s a problem.

On top of this, climate change is impacting crop yields. Scientists have found that over the last 25 years, the growth in yields has fallen by 10-20 percent in some locations.

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