The risk of wars being fought over water is rising because of explosive global population growth and widespread complacency, scientists warned last week.
"We have had oil wars," Professor William Mitsch told Patrick McLoughlin of Reuters. "That's happened in our lifetime. Water wars are possible."
Scientists at the World Water Week conference which was held last week in Stockholm said that ignorance and complacency are widespread in wealthier countries.
"I don't know what will shake these regions out of complacency other than the fact there will be droughts, pestilence and wars that break out over water rights," said Mitsch, professor of natural resources at Ohio State University.
Mitsch told Reuters potential hot spots include the Middle East.
"Continuing on our present path will mean more conflict," a report by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said.
With the world's population growing at exponential rates there is extreme pressure on water supplies to provide drinking water and food, scientists at the Stockholm gathering agreed .
"In 2025 we will have another two billion people to feed and 95 percent of these will be in urban areas," said Professor Jan Lundqvist of Stockholm International Water Institute.
Sustained investment in infrastructure will be critical to meeting the rising needs for water.
An estimated $80 billion is invested each year in the water sector, but twice as much is needed, said Professor Frank Rijsberman, the IWMI's director general.
"I think if I look at the numbers I can't immediately see a way out over the next few years," said IWMI report co-author Dr. David Molden. "I think we will reach a real crisis."