BAML: This is the biggest risk facing the planet


drought water

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

A dry boat dock sits in Huntington Lake after the water receded, in the High Sierra, California.

The world is eyeing numerous global economic, geopolitical, and demographic problems.


But there's another somewhat-under-the-radar problem that many countries will soon have to address: Lack of water.

A Bank of America Merrill Lynch team led by Beijia Ma recently reiterated in a report to clients that water is the number one pressing issue for the world as whole.

From their report (emphasis ours):

"Water is the #1 risk facing the planet. ... Globally, 750 million people lack access to safe drinking water source and 2.4 billion have no access to proper sanitation facilities. Close to 50 countries are officially classified as being water stressed, and up to 70% of the world's underground aquifers have reached peak water. Global water demand is set to overshoot supply by 40% by 2030E, and by 2050E, 3.9 billion people will be living under "severe" water stress. Poor water supply and sanitation cost the global economy US$260 billion per year or c1.5% of global GDP. By 2050E, 45% of projected GDP is at risk, with as many as 50 countries at risk of conflict over water."


Notably, one particular place where this is already a huge problem is California.

The state is in its fifth year of severe drought, and experts say it has been the worst the state has seen in 1,200 years. Plus, a mid-2015 study from the University of California-Davis estimated that the drought would cost the state's economy $2.7 billion and nearly 21,000 jobs that year.

"In a business as usual scenario, California water demand will outstrip supply by 50 billion m3 (1 trillion gallons) by 2060E, with an 80% chance of multi-decade 'mega drought' this century," the BAML team argued.

Moreover, folks have also singled out Saudi Arabia as a major country that's steadily running through its supply of nonrenewable groundwater reserves.

"Saudi Arabia is facing a catastrophe if agricultural practices don't change. The remaining groundwater needs to be preserved," Ali al-Takhees, the former undersecretary of the Saudi ministry of agriculture, previously told Al-Araby.


In sum, water shortage is a big problem that many countries need to prepare for.

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