Experts rate water supply crisis as one of the world’s greatest risks according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013, an annual report that identifies and quantifies risks to global security. Water supply crises are rated as the highest societal risk. In terms of impact, they are rated as the second highest risk, maintaining this position from 2012, and previously absent from the top five during the years 2007-2011. Water supply is identified as the fourth highest global risk in terms of likelihood, an increase from its position at fifth in 2012, and again absent from the top five in the previous five reports. Water supply crises are defined as the decline in the quality and quantity of fresh water combined with increased competition among resource-intensive systems, such as food and energy production.
Related risks identified by the report include food shortage crises (rated fourth for impact) and rising greenhouse gas emissions (rated third in terms of likelihood). Rising food insecurity and aggravated water scarcity are highlighted as possible impacts of global warming. The report urges for ‘climate smart’ decision-making to form an integral part of food and water management and policies. Such a mindset would see climate change analysis incorporated into strategic and operational decision-making.
The Global Risks report is based on an annual survey of over 1,000 experts from government, research, industry and civil society.