Global water scarcity is worse than previously thought, with around 4 billion people at risk – nearly 70% of the world’s population, reveals new analysis.
The study published in the Science Advances journal, reveals new figures that look at water scarcity on a monthly basis, instead of an annual basis that previous analyses looked into.
Out of the approximately 4 billion people facing severe water scarcity for a month or more, almost half live in India and China with the rest mainly in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan and Mexico as well as the United States.
“Direct victims of the overconsumption of water resources are the users themselves, who increasingly suffer from water shortages during droughts, resulting in reduced harvests and loss of income for farmers, threatening the livelihoods of whole communities. Businesses depending on water in their operations or supply chain also face increasing risks of water shortages. Other effects include biodiversity losses, low flows hampering navigation, land subsidence and salinization of soils and groundwater resources.” said Prof Arjen Hoekstra, at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and who led the new research.
The study concludes that “[m]eeting humanity’s increasing demand for freshwater and protecting ecosystems at the same time … will be one of the most difficult and important challenges of this century.”
The World Economic Forum recently rated water crises and one of three greatest risks of harm to people and economies in the coming decade.
For those that think taking a shorter shower is the answer, think again. 1-4% of a person’s water footprint is in the home, while 25% is from meat consumption. It takes over 15,000 litres of water to make 1kg of beef, with almost all of that used to irrigate the crops fed to the cattle.