Quantcast

A Fourth of the World Is Living Under Extreme Water Stress, Says New Research

Climate
Residents of housing board complex in Chennai city fill water from common tab on June 29. The locals mentioned they get water every alternate day and for only two hours in the morning. All the four major reservoirs supplying water to Chennai has dried up. Atul Loke / Getty Images

One quarter of the world's population are living in areas where the competition for water resources is extreme, according to a new report from the Washington-based global research group World Resource Institute (WRI), as The Guardian reported.


Around the world 17 countries, including India, which is home to 1.3 billion people, face extreme water stress. That means, "irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw more than 80 percent of their available supply on average every year," the WRI report said. "Such a narrow gap between supply and demand leaves countries vulnerable to fluctuations like droughts or increased water withdrawals," the report said, as Deutsche Welle reported.

The report cautioned that increased water stress and the climate crisis could lead to more "day zeroes," a term that was coined when Cape Town, South Africa approached the brink of completely running out of potable water, according to The Guardian

"The picture is alarming in many places around the globe, but it's very important to note that water stress is not destiny," said Betsy Otto, WRI's global water director, to The Guardian. "What we can't afford to do any longer is pretend that the situation will resolve itself."

In addition to the 17 countries facing extreme water stress, New Mexico ranked on par with the United Arab Emirates and Eritrea in Africa as the only state with extremely high pressures on its water system.

After New Mexico, California ranked second with its water pressure under high stress. It was followed by Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

Looking at the global picture, Qatar, with a total score of 4.97 on a scale of 5, tops the list of 17 extremely high water-stressed countries. It is followed by Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, UAE, San Marino, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Oman and Botswana. The Middle East and North Africa are home to 12 of the 17 countries suffering from extreme stress.

Additionally, another 27 countries make up the "high baseline water stress" list.

Of the countries on the list, India is an outlier. It is not in an arid area, it has widespread rainfall and a web of lakes and streams, and its total population is three times the size of the other 16 countries combined. Yet, last month, the southern city of Chennai saw its taps run dry, its reservoirs empty, and shrinking waters in Puzhal Lake, as EcoWatch reported.

"Overexploitation and mismanagement of water is the reason for this water stress," said Shashi Shekhar, former secretary, ministry of water resources and Ganga rejuvenation, and a senior fellow with WRI India, as India Spend reported.

Shekar added that India is plagued by inefficient agriculture that uses up to 80 percent of all available water resources in the country.

WRI's experts pointed out that water stress and drought are not the same. Yet, in countries where people use water at a faster rate than it is replaced serious problems will arise if they hit a drought or a prolonged period without adequate rainfall, according to the Guardian.

"With respect to climate change we know that in many places what we're going to be seeing is more erratic, more unpredictable hydrology, precipitation. Either too much or too little, often in the same places," Otto said to the Guardian.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Individual standing in Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Jill Carlson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis

Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Read More Show Less
A pregnant woman works out in front of the skyline of London. SHansche / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less