MANILA, Philippines - Asia may experience a severe water crisis in the next 2 decades, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned Tuesday, and this could hamper the region's growth if left unaddressed.
Arjun Thapan, special senior adviser to ADB on infrastructure and water issues, said the estimate suggests a 40% shortfall in water supply in the region by 2030.
He added water demand in Asia is expected to grow alongside food demand, which is expected to surge by 70% to 90% in 2030.
Water use efficiency in irrigated agriculture in the region has not increased by more than 1% yearly since 1990, making it difficult to produce more water.
To address the problem, the ADB is coming up with a draft framework for water operations that calls for efficiency improvement and greater public-private sector partnerships to address the looming crisis in Asia.
The Philippines, Thapan said, is the best example so far in the region as its water concessionaires are publicly owned but privately managed.
"These are the kinds of examples of public and private partnerships needed to help close the water gap not only by improving your rate of use of water with efficiency by bringing in capital," Thapan said.
Metro Manila's water distributor in the east zone, Manila Water Co. Inc., is listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange, while parents of its rival Maynilad Water Services Inc. are also public firms.
Manila Water is owned by the Ayala Group, while Maynilad is jointly owned by Consunji-led DMCI Holdings Inc. and Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp.
The 2 firms are implementing capital projects to reduce non-revenue water, or water lost to pilferage and leakage. They have also put up wastewater treatment facilities.
Amy Leung, an ADB director, said a water crisis can be prevented by adopting an integrated water resources management system. In the Philippines, she said a lot has to be done on solid waste management, which is one of the factors why flood control has been a perennial problem in the country.