Draining the Deserts

From small island nations to the Middle East’s major powers, water stress is a severe challenge for many countries.

December 10, 2015

From small island nations to the Middle East’s major powers, water stress is a severe challenge for many countries.

1. Baseline water stress, according to the World Resources Institute, is a comparison of the amount of water being used in a country for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes against the volume of water available from rivers, streams and shallow aquifers.

2. If more than 80% of these renewable water resources are being used annually, a country is considered to have “extremely high” water stress.

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3. Saudi Arabia and Iran, for example, are among the 36 countries worldwide grappling with “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress.

4. In such situations, industry, farms and the general population are likely to face serious risk of shortages, if there is even a small drop in how much water is being replenished annually.

5. Even a minor decline in rainfall can produce crop failures, production slowdowns and other economic damage.

6. As the populations and economies of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia grow, these water resource stresses are likely to worsen unless very strong water management and conservation practices are implemented soon.

7. Most of the 36 countries that have to cope with extremely high water stress are small island nations or desert/arid countries in the tropics or subtropics.

8. The Caribbean, Middle East, Central Asia and Sahel/Sahara regions encompass nearly all of them.

9. Over one billion people around the world currently live in water-scarce regions.

10. By 2025, as many as 3.5 billion people could regularly experience water scarcity, according to the World Bank.

Source: World Resources Institute

Takeaways

Water stress is the amount of water being used against volume available from rivers and aquifers.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are grappling with “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress.

Over one billion people around the world currently live in water-scarce regions.