Some 3.6 billion people are estimated to be living in areas with a potential for water scarcity for at least one month per year, and this number could rise to as many as 5.7 billion people by 2050, according to a report published by UNESCO.
Released Monday, the 2018 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report said that global demand for water had been rising at a rate of around 1 percent annually, and would "continue to grow significantly" during the next 20 years.
Nature-based solutions (NBS) had an important role in boosting both the quality and supply of water and mitigating the impact of natural disasters, according to the report.
"We need new solutions in managing water resources so as to meet emerging challenges to water security caused by population growth and climate change," Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO, said in a statement.
"If we do nothing, some 5 billion people will be living in areas with poor access to water by 2050," Azoulay added. "This report proposes solutions that are based on nature to manage water better. This is a major task all of us need to accomplish together responsibly so as to avoid water-related conflicts."
The report described NBS as being "inspired and supported by nature." NBS either use or mimic naturally-occurring processes to help improve the management of water. Examples include dry toilets, water harvesting and permeable pavements.
"In the face of accelerated consumption, increasing environmental degradation and the multi-faceted impacts of climate change, we clearly need new ways to manage competing demands on our precious freshwater resources," Gilbert F. Houngbo, chair of UN-Water and president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, said.