Three Billion People Live in Farming Areas With Water Shortages
Men push a tricycle laden with logs in Gaya district, Bihar. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Three Billion People Live in Farming Areas With Water Shortages

Roughly 40% of the world’s people live in farming areas facing large water shortages, and scarce supplies pose an increasing risk to food security as populations swell and the climate changes, the United Nations said.

About 3.2 billion people live in agricultural areas with “high to very high” water shortages and competition over resources is rising, the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization said in a report. Many farms that depend on rain are at risk as severe droughts become more common, and bigger global incomes are spurring demand for water-intensive foods like meat and dairy.

Of the total, 1.2 billion people -- a sixth of the global population -- are in areas with severely constrained water supplies, and the amount of freshwater available per person has dropped 20% in the past two decades, according to the report. Swaths of Asia and North Africa have been most affected, while small amounts of people in Europe and the Americas have seen extreme restrictions.

Agriculture accounts for 70% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals, and the UN called for better management to keep resources in check and boost agricultural yields. Earlier this year, CME Group Inc. announced its first futures contracts on water supplies in California, which has been afflicted by droughts and wildfire.

Almost two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to face water shortages by 2025, according to the bourse.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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