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"Worrisome predictions in 2000 had forecast that one third of the world population would be affected by water scarcity by 2025. Our findings from the just-concluded research show the situation to be even worse," says Frank Rijsberman, Director General of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). "Already in 2005, more than a third of the world population is affected by water scarcity. We will have to change business as usual in order to deal with growing scarcity water crisis we see in some countries like India, China, and the Colorado River basin of USA and Mexico."

The report says that about one-quarter of the world's population lives in areas where water is physically scarce, while about one-sixth of humanity -- over a billion people -- live where water is economically scarce, or places where "water is available in rivers and aquifers, but the infrastructure is lacking to make this water available to people."

The report states that access to reliable, safe and affordable water is key to poverty alleviation efforts and warns that declining groundwater supplies, loss of water rights and access, pollution, flooding and drought could well worsen poverty in many areas. Addressing these issues will be critical to raising the quality of life in poor regions.

"To feed the growing population and reduce malnourishment, the world has three choices," said David Molden who led the Comprehensive Assessment says. "Expand irrigation by diverting more water to agriculture and building more dams, at a major cost to the environment; expand the area under rain-fed agriculture at the expense of natural areas through massive deforestation and other habitat destruction; Or do more with the water we already use. We must grow more crop per drop, more meat and milk per drop, and more fish per drop."

Increasing agricultural yields per unit water used is possible through simple, low-cost measures said the report, citing work done in the Brazilian cerrado, or grassland. The report says that similar methods could be used to boost water productivity in the savannahs of Africa where the bulk of people rely on rain-fed agriculture. Other innovative approaches include the more effective use of waste water and streamlined irrigation systems to reduce water waste.

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