Shortages of safe water a growing global problem

About 1.1 billion people worldwide can’t get clean drinking water and 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation, the International Herald Tribune reports in a series on the looming global problem of freshwater scarcity. The U.N. wants to halve these numbers by 2015, but current progress suggests that target won’t be met — it would effectively mean hooking up more than 100,000 people to clean water sources every day for the next 10 years. In much of the world, centralized irrigation and municipal water sources have taken the place of older water-management methods, but they’re also putting more stress on the supply. The paradox, say experts, is that improving water quality and provision increases development, which puts further strain on freshwater supply. Make water cheap and abundant and people waste it; make it expensive and difficult to obtain and people die. The proper balance is tough to strike. Gulp.