Rising water demand creates shortages, depletes groundwater sources, and results in high salt levels in soils. At the same time, wetlands are rapidly disappearing due to drainage, conversion, and the disruption of natural flows. These trends have serious health and environmental impacts: reducing ecosystem services and biodiversity, and resulting in high carbon emissions, soil subsidence, loss of productive land, and water insecurity. The current business model for agriculture, energy, and industry, including water pricing and trading, creates perverse incentives to waste water. Rapid unplanned urbanization and climate change make things worse. An integrated approach to land and water resource management is essential: this entails reducing demand and increasing use efficiency, protecting and restoring wetlands and watersheds in our working landscapes, providing incentives for sustainable use, and designing more sustainable cities. We have the technical know‑how to sustainably manage global water supplies, but we need coordinated action and the political will to incentivize equitable water sharing and improve management practices at progressively larger scales.
Water Resources (Global Land Outlook; Part two: The Outlook; Chapter eight)