Four billion people affected by severe water scarcity

Ground-breaking research published in Science Advances today reveals that many more people are living under severe water scarcity than previously thought. Founder of the Water Footprint Network and University of Twente Professor of Water Management, Arjen Hoekstra, has discovered that as many as four billion people worldwide are affected by severe water scarcity for at least one month a year. In 37 countries the entire population is affected and in 97 countries over half of the population (see map below).

Hoekstra said: “We have found that groundwater levels are falling, lakes are drying up, less water is flowing in rivers, and water supplies for industry and farmers are threatened. The growing world population, changes in consumer behaviour, and climate change are having an alarming impact on the scarcity and quality of water.”

This research provides a more detailed view of water scarcity – month by month and at a finer spatial resolution. This gives us a better understanding of how water scarcity changes over time and from one place to another. Water Footprint Network illustrates how this new research can be used to understand the causes of water scarcity and the impacts it has on sustainable development.

“Water scarcity can limit economic opportunities, degrade natural ecosystems, lead to loss of valuable ecosystems services and have negative impacts on subsistence uses, such as access to drinking water and loss of local fisheries. If we are going to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we must face the challenges ahead with a solid understanding of how we can end hunger, use resources efficiently and within sustainable limits. This new research tells us the challenge is greater than we thought and reveals the path ahead for achieving greater food and water security,” said Ruth Mathews Executive Director of Water Footprint Network.




Read our briefing paper here.

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