The battles over water between cities and agriculture are expected to become more intense in the years to come.
Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s water, so improving the water use efficiency of farming is important. But according to World Water Council president Ben Brago of Brazil, countries—especially developing countries—must also do a better job of storing the water that they have.
“So we have to start a very important debate on storage—on dams, on reservoirs—in the developing world,” says Brago. “They have impacts on the environment, they have social impacts—but we have to face this challenge.”
Building that kind of infrastructure will require financing. Brago says the World Bank stopped financing those kinds of projects in the 1990’s due to environmental and social concerns. But he says the bank recently changed that policy.
“They are starting to finance again, these kinds of infrastructures—for hydropower development, for large irrigation projects, canals and the like.”
Brago predicts water shortages in the “mega-cities of the developing world” will be common in the future. He says the lack of safe drinking water will have public health implications.
“If we don’t invest, we may face urban—and rural—problems, as well,” he says.
Brago made his comments Monday during a news conference at the Water for Food Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska.