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MARCH 21, 2019

Approximately 2.4 billion people—more than one-third of the global population—currently live in water-scarce regions. Driven by population growth, rising consumption, urbanization and energy needs, demand for water continues to increase. According to a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a combination of careful management strategies, technological innovations, investments and policies around water are imperative to address the challenges of water scarcity.

“The stakes are high for protecting our water resources, as increasing scarcity threatens to undermine the progress that has been made on global food and nutrition security,” said Alesha Black, managing director of the global food and agriculture program at the Council. “Failure to treat water as a strategic, valuable and limited resource will accelerate water insecurity, even for historically water-secure populations, and it may threaten the economic and political security of nations, including the United States.”

By 2050 the global population is expected to increase to 9.8 billion, with 86 percent living in low- and middle-income countries and 70 percent in rapidly growing urban areas. Increased competition for water—for both agricultural and nonagricultural purposes—could create an increased likelihood of conflict over this precious resource.

The report, “From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future,” lays out four key actions that can be taken by the US government—in partnership with other national governments, the private sector and civil society—to advance successful, sustainable water management in agriculture to achieve a nourishing food system:

  1. Strengthen the environment for cooperation and communication between water development and food and nutrition security
  2. Ease the challenges that hinder greater private-sector investment to expand sustainable water development for food and nutrition security
  3. Leverage US expertise and influence to improve water resource governance and sustainability
  4. Strengthen support for agricultural R&D and interdisciplinary research at the nexus of water, food, and nutrition

The report is being released today at the Council’s 2019 Global Food Security Symposium today in Washington D.C. Discussions at the symposium will explore how to grow an adequate quantity—and quality—of food to feed and nourish a rapidly growing, urbanizing world in the face of increasing water insecurity. The event will be live streamed beginning at 8:30 am ET.

The report author, Dr. Mark Rosegrant, is available for interviews. Please contact

The report was co-chaired by:

  • Ertharin Cousin – Distinguished Fellow of Global Food and Agriculture, Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Payne Distinguished Lecturer, Stanford University Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; Former Executive Director of the World Food Programme
  • A.G. Kawamura – Panel of Advisors Member, Global Food and Agriculture Program, Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Founding Cochair, Solutions from the Land; Former Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture

About the Global Food Security Symposium

The Global Food Security Symposium has been convened annually since 2010 to identify opportunities for U.S. leadership to address the problem of food security and alleviate hunger and poverty through agricultural development.

Generous support for the 2019 symposium is provided by Abbott and Syngenta as lead sponsors; Cargill as a supporting sponsor; and Bayer, Corteva Agriscience, and RTI as contributing sponsors. The symposium and report are supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.