Once-unthinkable water crises are becoming commonplace.
New data from WRI’s Aqueduct tools reveal that 17 countries – home to one-quarter of the world’s population—face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress, where irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw more than 80% of their available supply on average every year. Forty-four countries, home to one-third of the world, face “high” levels of stress, where on average more than 40% of available supply is withdrawn every year. (Check your country’s water stress level in the full rankings at the end of this post.) Such a narrow gap between supply and demand leaves countries vulnerable to fluctuations like droughts or increased water withdrawals, which is why we’re seeing more and more communities facing their own “Day Zeros” and other crises.
3 Ways to Reduce Water Stress
In any geography, water stress can be reduced by measures ranging from common sense to cutting-edge. There are countless solutions, but here are three of the most straightforward:
1. Increase agricultural efficiency: The world needs to make every drop of water go further in its food systems. Farmers can use seeds that require less water and improve their irrigation techniques by using precision watering rather than flooding their fields. Financiers can provide capital for water productivity investments, while engineers can develop technologies that improve efficiency in agriculture. And consumers can reduce food loss and waste, which uses one-quarter of all agricultural water.
2. Invest in grey and green infrastructure: Aqueduct’s new data shows that water stress can vary tremendously over the year. WRI and the World Bank’s research shows that built infrastructure (like pipes and treatment plants) and green infrastructure (like wetlands and healthy watersheds) can work in tandem to tackle issues of both water supply and water quality.
3. Treat, reuse and recycle: We need to stop thinking of wastewater as waste. Treating and reusing it creates a “new” water source. There are also useful resources in wastewater that can be harvested to help lower water treatment costs. For example, plants in Xiangyang, China and Washington, D.C. reuse or sell the energy- and nutrient-rich byproducts captured during wastewater treatment.
The data is clear: There are undeniably worrying trends in water. But by taking action now and investing in better management, we can solve water issues for the good of people, economies and the planet.
See full report at www.wri.org