Only 3 per cent of the world's water is freshwater and about one third of that is inaccessible. The rest is very unevenly distributed, parts of Canada and the Amazon, for example are both more than amply suppied. Terrible and permanent water stress can be seen, among other places, in the drylands of Africa caused not just by drought, but by poverty leading to poor land management and over-population.;As with so many other things, those most badly affected are the poor nations of the world who are frequently faced with an impossible dilemma: they must either limit their water use to decreasingly available unused water or they must make do with used but untreated and, therefore, dangerous water. They cannot afford the technology to recycle safely. In rural regions increased populations and frequent droughts mean that in addition to the lack of fresh, clean water for human consumption there are inadequate supplies for crop irrigation.;An enormous proportion of the world's population lives in countries which share their primary sources of water with other nations, for example 12 countries depend on the Danube, 10 on the Niger, 9 on the Nile.
Water is essential to development, both in poor countries and in rich, the use made of a major river in one country can affect seriously the possibilities open to another. Hence the international shortage is a major threat to world security. To take but one example, if Turkey goes ahead with its plan to damn the Euphrates, then Iraq and Syria, already water-stressed countries could be in even more serious trouble - they are hardly likely to accept the situation.;This book describes the world situation, addresses the nature of the problems, shows the ways in which they have been shamefully neglected in all development and economic thinking and proposes some solutions, often simple and well-tried but which could ensure water security for the whole world.