Water Scarcity Challenges Faced by Countries Hosting a Quarter of the Global Population

Severe Water Shortages Plague Nations That Regularly Deplete 80% of Their Water Reserves
A quarter of the world’s population, spanning twenty-five countries, is currently grappling with significant water scarcity issues, as reported by The Guardian.

Research from the World Resources Institute (WRI) reveals that these nations consistently utilize a staggering 80% of their available water supplies annually.

The Aqueduct “water risk” map, developed by WRI, highlights the escalating global demand for water, which has more than doubled since 1960.

While water demand has steadied in Europe and the U.S., it is surging in Africa at an alarming rate. Projections indicate that by 2050, worldwide water demand could escalate by 20-25%.

Among the twenty-five nations contending with severe water scarcity, Saudi Arabia, Chile, San Marino, Belgium, and Greece are notably affected. Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Oman stand out as the five countries grappling with the most critical water shortages.

Aqueduct’s analysis underscores that approximately four billion people, constituting half of the global population, endure water scarcity for at least one month annually. This proportion could rise to nearly 60% by 2050.

The report’s authors emphasize, “Living with such acute water scarcity jeopardizes lives, livelihoods, food and energy security. Water is pivotal in agriculture, livestock husbandry, energy production, human well-being, fostering equitable societies, and achieving global climate objectives. Addressing water scarcity is imperative to navigate population growth, economic advancement, and climate change impacts.”

Projected into the future, Aqueduct’s analysis foresees that by 2050, a staggering 31% of the global GDP, amounting to $70 trillion, will be ensnared in the clutches of severe water scarcity, a stark contrast to the 24% ($15 trillion) recorded in 2010. Notably, the economic output of four nations – India, Mexico, Egypt, and Turkey – will collectively contribute to more than half of this affected GDP by 2050.

The comprehensive examination of water risks underscores the perilous trajectory of escalating water scarcity and its potential to destabilize countries’ economic trajectories. The adverse impact extends to food production as well. The study unveils that an alarming 60% of the world’s irrigated agriculture is confronted with an acute water shortage, with crops like sugarcane, wheat, rice, and maize particularly susceptible.

India’s experience with water scarcity significantly impacting thermal power plant cooling operations between 2017 and 2021 serves as a poignant example. This crisis resulted in an astounding loss of 8.2 terawatt-hours of electricity, a quantity sufficient to energize 1.5 million households within the nation for a five-year span.

The report underscores the potential for proactive measures to alleviate the water scarcity driving these dire water crises. Illustratively, Singapore and Las Vegas offer a glimmer of hope amidst adversity, demonstrating resilience against even the most severe water deficits. The local authorities in these regions achieved this by judiciously conserving water resources through innovative strategies like desalination and advanced wastewater treatment and reuse.

The report’s authors emphasize that the effective management of water resources and the mitigation of water scarcity require a strong political resolve.

Among the 25 nations grappling with the most severe water scarcity challenges are Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Botswana, Iran, Jordan, Chile, San Marino, Belgium, Greece, Tunisia, Namibia, South Africa, Iraq, India, and Syria.

Notably, previous assessments have warned that the world could encounter significant disruptions in its food supply long before the global temperature increase reaches the 1.5°C threshold. The confluence of climate crises, water scarcity, and unsustainable agricultural practices poses an imminent threat to global agriculture. Escalating temperatures, frequent heatwaves, and intensified droughts and floods collectively jeopardize food security in numerous regions.