The past twenty years have witnessed an expansion in the quantity and severity of climate-related events globally that have driven an elevation in water-related risk in numerous countries. In an attempt to measure the impacts that these events are having around the world, the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct project recently evaluated, mapped, and scored water risks in 100 river basins, ranked by area and population, and 180 nations—the first such country-level water assessment of its kind. The project found that 36 countries face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the water available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users is withdrawn annually—leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity.
While the project suggests that 20% of the countries are faced with significant baseline water stress, the report also stresses that those conditions do not have to result in cataclysmic ends.
It’s also important for countries to understand the underlying natural factors that drive their water-related risks and respond accordingly. Extremely high levels of baseline water stress, for example, don’t necessarily mean that a country will fall victim to scarcity. Armed with the right information, countries facing extremely high stress can implement management and conservation strategies to secure their water supplies.