Seven of the world's 10 most populated regions would face such severe water shortages over the next three decades that it would affect growth, which hundreds of millions of people in the developing world are banking on to lift them out of poverty.
The value of goods and services produced in these regions, which included large parts of India, Bangladesh and North-eastern Africa, is forecast to rise over seven-fold to $15.6 trillion by 2050, which would increase their share of the growing global economy from 3 per cent at present to 12 per cent, and bring prosperity to hundreds of millions of people.
However, water use in these regions was growing so fast that unless action was taken to safeguard its supply they would "face unsustainable water consumption, with significant water scarcity," a report by Frontier Economics has warned.
Failure to improve the efficiency with which the water was collected and used, for example with improvement of pipelines and other infrastructure, could mean that the economic growth expected in the regions "would not materialise," the report added.
The report divides and analyses the world in terms of its "river basins" – areas of land, sometimes vast, drained by a river and its tributaries – the most populated being the Ganges, which straddled parts of India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
According to David Tickner, head of freshwater at WWF-UK, this was an extremely serious issue for economies around the world and improving the way water was managed and allocated was among the great challenges facing the world in the 21st century.