Meeting global goals for water access and safety will cost an estimated $840 billion to $1.8 trillion a year after 2015, but will deliver more than $3 trillion annually in economic, environmental and social benefits, according to a study backed by the United Nations University.
The Catalyzing Water for Sustainable Development and Growth study says it will take annual investments of up to $1.8 trillion, or up to 2.2 percent of world gross domestic product, over 20 years to provide universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation, increased irrigation for food production and renewable energy production.
The study is the first evidence-based analysis of options for integrating water into the new sustainable development goals that will define the international development agenda after the UN Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015.
The global goals will be challenging to meet largely due to an increasing shortfall between demand for, and supply of water, which is projected to be 40 percent by 2030, according to the study, which was produced by the UN’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health and the UN Office for Sustainable Development in collaboration with Stockholm Environment Institute.
Other challenges include increased demand for food and energy. Providing food supplies for a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 would require an increase in provision of “on-the-plate” food by 70 percent. Some of the demand can be met by reducing food and water waste, the study says.
However, those investments won’t be enough to meet these global water goals unless corruption is eliminated, the study says. In any accounting of water-related expenses, “corruption is the elephant in the room,” says co-author Zafar Adeel, director of UNU-INWEH.
A study by Transparency International found 30 percent or so of spending in water-related infrastructure is lost to corruption.