In 2017, Cape Town, South Africa nearly ran out of water. Similar situations are likely to occur more frequently around the globe.

Data com­piled by the WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas has revealed that 17 coun­tries rep­re­sent­ing one quar­ter of the world’s pop­u­la­tion are fac­ing “extremely high” water stress, with most located in the Middle East and North Africa.

A new gen­er­a­tion of solu­tions is emerg­ing, but nowhere near fast enough. Failure to act will be mas­sively expen­sive in human lives and liveli­hoods.- Andrew Steer, pres­i­dent and CEO of the World Resources Institute

“Water stress is the biggest cri­sis no one is talk­ing about. Its con­se­quences are in plain sight in the form of food inse­cu­rity, con­flict and migra­tion, and finan­cial insta­bil­ity,” Dr Andrew Steer, pres­i­dent and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said. “The newly updated Aqueduct tools allow users to bet­ter see and under­stand water risks and make smart deci­sions to man­age them. A new gen­er­a­tion of solu­tions is emerg­ing, but nowhere near fast enough. Failure to act will be mas­sively expen­sive in human lives and liveli­hoods.”

The WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas is a tool that ranks 189 coun­tries accord­ing to 13 indi­ca­tors of water stress, drought risk, and river­ine flood risk. It reveals that many olive-pro­duc­ing coun­tries includ­ing Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria and Turkey are under “high” water stress, while Israel and Lebanon are ranked among the most water-stressed coun­tries.

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Qatar tops the rank­ings as the most water-stressed coun­try in the world, while in Asia, India ranks at num­ber 13 fol­lowed by Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

“The recent water cri­sis in Chennai gained global atten­tion, but var­i­ous areas in India are expe­ri­enc­ing chronic water stress as well,” Shashi Shekhar, a senior fel­low at WRI India and for­mer Secretary of India’s Ministry of Water Resources, said. “India can man­age its water risk with the help of reli­able and robust data per­tain­ing to rain­fall, sur­face and ground­wa­ter to develop strate­gies that strengthen resilience. Aqueduct can help iden­tify and pri­or­i­tize water risks in India and around the world.”

In the 17 coun­tries expe­ri­enc­ing the high­est water stress, 80 per­cent of the avail­able sur­face and ground­wa­ter sup­plies are used up by agri­cul­ture, indus­try, and munic­i­pal­i­ties in an aver­age year.

This is the first time the WRI’s data included rank­ings of states and provinces within each coun­try. Though it ranks the United States at num­ber 48 on the coun­try list, a few U.S. states are expe­ri­enc­ing seri­ous water stress, most notably New Mexico and California (olives are also grown in both states), with New Mexico expe­ri­enc­ing “extremely high” water stress.

With global warm­ing, pres­sure on water avail­abil­ity is expected to inten­sify in the most water-stressed regions of the world with the risk of scarcity pre­sent­ing a seri­ous threat to agri­cul­ture and food secu­rity as well as a height­ened risk of con­flict and migra­tion. Experts also warn that “day zero” sce­nar­ios, like the one expe­ri­enced by res­i­dents of Cape Town last year, may become increas­ingly com­mon.




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