Africa: Water Bankruptcy Looms for One in Four People Worldwide, Researchers Warn

New data in WRI's Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas showed the lion's share of the most thirsty countries are located in the largely arid Middle East and North Africa region.

New York — A quarter of the world's people are just a few dry spells away from facing dangerous water shortages, a U.S. think tank warned on Tuesday, with India home to the bulk at risk of running dry.

Seventeen countries face "extremely high water stress" because they consume 80 percent of their available water annually, a situation worsened by more frequent dry shocks tied to climate change, the World Resources Institute (WRI) said.

"We're currently facing a global water crisis," said Betsy Otto, director of WRI's global water program.

New data in WRI's Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas showed the lion's share of the most thirsty countries are located in the largely arid Middle East and North Africa region.

Qatar is the most water-stressed country, followed by Israel and Lebanon.

India ranked 13th among "extremely high" water-stressed nations. But with a population of more than 1.3 billion, it has over three times more people than the other 16 countries combined whose agriculture, industry and municipalities depend on avoiding water "bankruptcy".

In recent weeks, India's sixth-largest city, Chennai, was the latest metropolis worldwide to warn its taps could run dry, as reservoir levels plunged.

That followed similar countdowns to water "Day Zero" in South Africa's Cape Town last year and Brazil's Sao Paulo in 2015, WRI said.

"We're likely to see more of these kinds of 'Day Zeros' in the future," said Otto.

The world's water supplies are threatened by many factors, from climate change to mismanagement in the form of water waste and pollution, Washington-based WRI said.

A high reliance on depleting groundwater supplies - difficult to measure and manage because they are buried deep - is an additional concern, Paul Reig, who leads work on the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, told journalists.

Nearly a third of the world's fresh water is groundwater, according to the United States Geological Survey.

"Because we don't understand (groundwater), and don't see it, we manage it very poorly," Reig said.

WRI's atlas ranked 189 countries on water stress, drought and river flood risk in collaboration with universities and research institutes in the Netherlands and Switzerland, using data from the 1960s to 2014.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers climate change, humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

See What Everyone is Watching

More From: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 700 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.