Paris — The world has abundant freshwater but it is unevenly distributed and under increasing pressure, UN agencies say, as highlighted by the severe shortages in Cape Town. On Tuesday, SA declared a "national disaster" over a drought that has ravaged parts of the country and threatened to leave the city without domestic tap water. More than 97% of the planet’s water is salty, most of it in the oceans and seas, but there is also a good supply of freshwater. Every year about 42.8-trillion cubic metres of renewable freshwater circulates as rain, surface water or groundwater, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). This equals 16,216 litres per person per day — four times the amount required in the US, for example, for personal and domestic consumption, industry and agriculture. Depending on diet and lifestyle, a person needs between 2,000l and 5,000l of water a day to produce their food and meet their drinking and sanitation requirements, the FAO says. About 60%...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now