World

Quarter of the World's Population Facing 'Extreme' Water Stress

At least ten olive-growing countries in the Mediterranean basin are ranked as "high water stress," according to data compiled by the World Resources Institute.

In 2017, Cape Town, South Africa nearly ran out of water. Similar situations are likely to occur more frequently around the globe.
Aug. 14, 2019
By Isabel Putinja
In 2017, Cape Town, South Africa nearly ran out of water. Similar situations are likely to occur more frequently around the globe.

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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.

See more: Sustainability News

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.”

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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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