Economic trends

Chart: Water scarcity – a global problem?

Economic and political crises related to water scarcity are multiplying

2016-08-09-BeyondBorders-Image-Philippe DP-Water chart
Source: World Resource Institute, UN, FAO, Standard Chartered Research


The map above illustrates water risks in the world through an indicator measuring risks related to quantity, quality and access.

Water risk is an increasingly important global theme and does not only concern poor and water-stressed countries. Areas from California to south-eastern Spain and Australia have experienced acute episodes of drought, groundwater depletion and environmental change that have strained water resources.

Rising temperatures play an obvious role in water risks multiplying, but overuse, pollution, mismanagement and changing diets are contributing factors also. Economic development leads to urbanisation and millions of people shifting each year from starch to meat and dairy-based diets, which require much more water for cultivation. This dietary shift has had the greatest impact on water consumption over the past 30 years and will continue, according to the UN.

The natural availability of water is only one factor in straining world water resources – its use and management are just as important. Countries such as India have good natural access to water, but pollution, aquifer and waste-water mismanagement, irrigation techniques, and agricultural choices have rendered the situation critical.

And water crises are not limited to emerging markets. Mismanagement, water overuse, and growing evidence of faster-than-anticipated climate change have led to acute water crises in some developed countries. These include the ongoing multi-year drought in the US, which has affected over 97 per cent of the agricultural sector, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Read this short note to learn more about why water risk has become a crucial aspect of economic and geopolitical developments.



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