After an impending food crisis, scientists and engineers are forecasting the very worst - a severe water shortage world over that may present a host of obstacles over the next decade in providing clean water to millions of people.
The statement was made by a panel of scientists and engineers at a briefing at the Broadcast Center of the National Press Building on the Final Report on the American Chemical Society's Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.
According to Marc Edwards, a panelist from Virginia Tech University, the reality today is that the existing plumbing infrastructure is inadequate, and scientists have insufficient knowledge about how to overcome the challenges of providing safe water to people around the world.
Although Edwards stressed the importance of water conservation in meeting those challenges, he also cited unintended consequences of such efforts.
He noted, for instance, that reduced-flush toilets and other water conservation methods are allowing water to remain in household pipes longer. As it stagnates in pipes, the water could develop undesirable characteristics and have unwanted effects on household plumbing.
Edwards also detailed how a change in disinfectant from chlorine to chloramine caused leaching of lead into drinking water.
A new study by Edwards and colleagues from Virginia Tech University and Children's National Medical Center concludes that hundreds of children in Washington D.C. were introduced to high levels of lead from the city's drinking water.
"The predictions for the levels of lead in water in D.C. from 2001 to 2003 based on prior scientific research were very significant and disturbing," Edwards said.
"When the first reports came out finding that there was no detectable harm done, it defied previous scientific understanding. So we did our own study. For the youngest children, those under the age of 1.3 years, you saw substantial increases in blood-lead incidence immediately after switching to chloramines," he added.
According to William Ball from Johns Hopkins University, finding appropriate and sustainable solutions to problems like these, demands a sharper focus on water-related science.