These Countries Are the Most at Risk From a Water Crisis
People carry water from a pond in the dried-out Puzhal reservoir on the outskirts of Chennai, India.
Photograph: Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

These Countries Are the Most at Risk From a Water Crisis

Nearly 1.8 billion people in seventeen countries, or a quarter of the world’s population, appear to be veering towards a water crisis—with the potential of severe shortages in the next few years.

Of the 17 nations, 12 are in the Middle East and North Africa, according to an analysis released on Tuesday by Washington D.C.-based World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas. Two countries–India and Pakistan­­–are in Asia. The remaining hotspots are San Marino in Europe, Botswana in Africa and Turkmenistan in Central Asia.

High and Dry

17 countries, mostly in the Middle East, face the risk of extremely high water stress

Note: Data on water withdrawal, available water and groundwater are used to calculate baseline water stress.

Source: World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas

While the Middle East and North Africa region is hot and water supply can be low to begin with, rising demand has pushed countries into extreme stress, according to WRI. Qatar, the most at risk from water scarcity, depends heavily on seawater desalination systems to supply drinking water to people and industries.

The economic impact of severe water shortages came to the fore earlier this year in the south Indian city of Chennai, home to 7.1 million people. Heat waves and a monsoon delay in the summer months saw some of Chennai’s freshwater lakes dry up, triggering protests and violence, as well as business interruptions, with tech companies asking employees to work from home.

Countries facing extremely high water stress are using up to 80% of the available surface and ground water supply in an average year, and even small dry shocks, which are poised to increase due to climate change, can have severe effects, according to WRI.

India, which is ranked 13th on the list of countries with extremely high water risk, has more than three times the population of the other 16 countries in this category combined.

India’s Water Woes

Of all the water-stressed countries, India has the highest population at risk

Source: World Bank

Note: Population as of 2018

The problem in India is not isolated to the southern states. Northern India, according to the Aqueduct analysis which now includes groundwater analysis, is facing extreme groundwater depletion.

“We have a very high dependence on groundwater to meet our demands,” said Paul Reig, who leads Aqueduct and WRI’s corporate engagement on water said on a call with reporters. And because groundwater isn’t seen “we manage it very poorly,” he said.

Scroll down for full list.

Note: Country rankings are based on score data to the sixth decimal place

Source: World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas

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