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A thirsty planet looks for solutions to water shortage

By 2025, fully a third of the planet's growing population could find itself scavenging for safe drinking water, the United Nations has warned. More than two million people in developing countries -- the vast majority children -- die every year from diseases associated with unsanitary water. Mexico City, Jakarta and Bangkok, to name a few, have underground water sources depleting at alarming rates - and some of them are nonrenewable. In Beijing, home to 16 million, aquifers have fallen by more than a dozen metres (40 feet) in 30 years. Pathogen and chemical pollution have transformed many primary sources of water in the developing world into toxic repositories of disease. Desperation forces people to consume these contaminated waters. Current methods of decontamination remain "challenging, expensive and unreliable," and will take years to perfect. Rising sea levels are forcing salt water into aquifers beneath megadeltas that are home to tens of millions, and changing weather patterns are set to intensify droughts in large swathes of Africa, southern Europe and Asia. "In the coming decades, water scarcity may be a watchword that prompts action ranging from wholesale population migration to war, unless new ways to supply clean water are found." Image Above: Bangladeshi women queue at a handpump as they wait to collect water in a shanty town on the outskirts of Dhaka. A world without fresh water would be a world bereft of humans, and yet one in five people lacks regular access to this most basic of life-sustaining substances. (AFP/Lalage Snow)

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