According to a new UN report, global water shortages could lead to the collapse of the socioeconomic system within two decades.The report released Friday noted the world is likely to see a 40% shortfall in water in 15 years unless nations significantly change their habits regarding the use of water.

Of note, underground water reserves across the globe are already running dry, and rainfall patterns are becoming more unpredictable related to climate change. The world’s population is anticipated to hit 9 billion by 2050, and this means a lot more groundwater is required for farming, industry and human personal use.

Many Nations Face Looming Water Shortage: UN Report

More on global water shortage

The UN report projects global water demand will soar by 55% by 2050, while reserves dwindle worldwide. Given current usage trends, the world will have only 60% of the water it needs in 2030.

Global water shortages means risking many possible catastrophes: crops will fail, ecosystems can break down, industries collapse, disease and poverty increase, and wars over access to water are also likely to become more common.

Two thirds of the global population will be living in cities in three or four decades, and demand for water will be boosted by urbanization in developing economies. Urbanization generally means access to safe water and decent sanitation, but water shortages mean that is not the case in many large third world cities today.

The report was publicly presented in New Delhi just ahead of World Water Day, and calls on politicians and communities to improve their water policies, urging  conservation as well as recycling of waste water. It also suggested that countries consider raising prices for water, as well as making water-intensive sectors more efficient or transitioning to new technologies to save water..

Statements from experts

With “business as usual” the world is facing a “collapse in our global socioeconomic system,” Richard Connor, lead author of the report, noted in an interview with  Reuters.

For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, where urbanization is happening rapidly and with little planning, the percent of residents who have piped water in their homes  has dropped to 34% from 42% since 1990.

“The spontaneous urbanization, which creates slums, makes it very difficult because of the layout of the slums to provide water,” explained Joan Clos, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program.