The UK economy could be badly affected by droughts and water shortages in other parts of the world unless urgent action is taken to address the growing water risks faced by many firms' supply chains.
That is the stark warning contained in a report released today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Engineering the Future working group, which argues that the government and leading businesses are failing to adequately address water insecurity.
The report, entitled Global Water Security - an engineering perspective, warns that a perfect storm of climate change and population growth could lead to severe water shortages in many countries that the UK is reliant on for imports.
The group calls on the government to assess the links between water, food and energy security in the UK and make water security central to national and international development policy making.
It also urges businesses to assess how water risks could impact their supply chains. "We should ask whether it is right to import green beans - or even roses - from a water-stressed region like Kenya," said steering group chairman Peter Guthrie.
The report found that two thirds of the UK's water footprint is currently " virtual water" - the water used to grow and manufacture imported goods. For example, the report states that one kilogram of beef requires 15,500 litres of water to produce, which is more than ten times the amount required to produce one kilogram of wheat.
Guthrie argued while it was important to try and curb demand for water important, it was also vital to develop new and better technology for producing sustainable water supplies.
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