Over the next 25 years, the number of people facing chronic or severe water shortages could increase from 505 million to more than 3 billion, according to a report released this week by Population Action International. The report said water shortages would be worst in the Middle East and much of Africa. But — you’d never guess this — the group said its finding were good news in some sense. “These figures are an improvement over what we thought would happen a decade ago,” said PAI President Amy Coen. She attributed the improvement to more family planning and the reduced rate of population growth around the world. Still, the report’s lead author, Robert Engelman, hastened to point out that hundreds of millions of people continue to lack access to family planning tools and basic health care.