From the south of Spain to London, via the huge cities of Australia and North America a shortage of water that threatens not only developing nations but rich but thirsty countries too.
Two recent reports warn of serious problems over water in big cities in the coming years, both point the finger of blame at poor management of a increasingly-scarce resource.
London is one of the cities named in the reports. Drier winters have lowered levels in reservoirs, a situation aggravated by leaks from the antiquated system equivalent to 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools, every day.
But pollution from industry, agriculture, the damage caused by mass tourism and the effects of climate change could, experts say, lead to many areas in Europe using more water than they have by 2070.
This grave prediction has drawn hundreds of experts and organisations from around the world to Stockholm, for World Water Week, which ends on August 26.
Professor Frank Rijsberma said: “The surprising finding that we bring out here today is that while we six years ago were saying that one third of the world’s population would be facing water scarcity by 2025, our new results showed that, in fact, already a third of the population is facing water scarcity.”
One of the issues being debated is the amount of water consumed by agriculture – just under three quarters of the all the water used in the world.
Figures from World Wide Fund for Nature show it takes 200 litres of water to produce a glass of milk, a kilo of grain necessitates up to 4,000 litres of water while 10,000 litres of water are used for a kilo of industrially-produced meat.
The most serious situations are to be found in developing countries like China and India, where massive strain is being placed on water resources.
With rising populations and without an improvement in agricultural methods, usage is forecast to rise by 80 per cent by 2050.
Already 1.6 billion people are suffering from water shortages in north Africa, parts of China and the south west of the United States – a situation made worse by corruption. Experts estimate that between 20 and 40 per cent of total investment in the water sector does not get to the people who need it.