Having been in the field, most recently in India, I have seen that access to safe water is just a few dollars away for many people. A small loan can create a pathway to a household water tap. Making access to capital ubiquitous and affordable for those living in poverty would go a long way towards eliminating water stress.
Due to a combination of problems, including rapid population growth, constrained water supplies and high levels of poverty, countries such as India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nigeria will be hit the hardest by this trend. Resource-constrained water stress will be the norm for many countries in Asia, while finance-constrained water stress will be the norm for many countries in Africa. This is reflected in the fact that experts surveyed by the World Economic Forum expect Sub-Saharan Africa to be the most affected region, closely followed by Asia.
Despite the obstacles we face, there is room for optimism. We believe that more will be done to increase the efficiency of water in agriculture, which accounts for more than 70% of water use. Awareness about the global water crisis is also set to keep growing over the next year, and the private sector is already looking closely at how it can play a stronger role in helping the communities in which they operate, especially in emerging markets.
The health crises of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and now Ebola have spurred the global community. I believe that this issue will become every bit as important. The misconception that everyone affected is equally poor and waiting for top-down charity is one of the biggest obstacles preventing universal access to safe water. People must urgently recognize that, for 750 million of us, the water crisis is very real.
The Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015 report is now live.
Author: Matt Damon is an American actor, voice actor, screenwriter, producer, and philanthropist.
Image: A street child drinks water from a tap in a slum area of New Delhi June 4, 2003 to quench his thirst during a heat wave. REUTERS/Kamal Kishore