Water is now one of the highest global risks, alongside the economy, unemployment, food shortages and extreme weather patterns, new research has found.
The ninth edition of the Global Risk Report, released today by the World Economic Forum (WEF), identified water security as a top priority for the planet - while also finding that women and younger people are most likely to recognise this.
The study pointed to what it called "a significant decline in the quality and quantity of fresh water, combined with increased competition among resource-intensive systems, such as food and energy production" as a key resource risk facing both business and wider society.
It said that increasing water risks were a result of "mismanagement and increased competition" for already scarce water resources from economic activity and population growth.
The findings have already been picked up by Nestlé Group chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe who is an outspoken advocate of business addressing water security issues.
Writing in his latest blog, he said that report showed how the most important risks are interconnected.
"Food is one the dimensions here, and in earlier posts I have expressed my concern about the possible impact of water shortage on food production in the coming years, i.e., the risk of up to 30% shortfalls in global cereal production due to shortage in freshwater by 2030," he pointed out.
"Not surprisingly, and with other factors involved (climate policies subsidising the use of food for fuel, slowdown in the growth of per-hectare productivity, etc.), the risk of a food crisis is also ranked very highly among the threats to our future."