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Slower Growth Could Ease Water Shortage

Mon., Dec. 15, 1997

Predictions that the world’s population is growing more slowly than estimated a few years ago are leading experts to take a new look at the potential shortages of forests, water and other natural resources.

On Monday, in one of the first published reassessments, the Washington-based research organization Population Action International will report that fresh water supplies may be less scarce in the middle of the next century in some places than scientists had feared.

But the report, “Sustaining Water. Easing Scarcity: A Second Update,” also warns that although some areas of the world may be temporarily better off because of slower population growth, global water resources remain under serious threat. Moreover, the most serious crises will be faced by some regions already prone to conflict.

By 2050, the report says, the fiercest competition over fresh water is likely to be in the Middle East and parts of Africa, where populations are continuing to grow and to strain already short supplies.

In the Euphrates River system, where Iraq, Syria and Turkey share one water source, there will be much greater demand for water for personal use, irrigation and industry. Populations there are expected to grow 50 percent in 30 years.

In Africa, researchers see water crises looming in Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Somalia and South Africa, where existing water scarcities will also be worsened by rapid population growth, and along the Nile system.

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