Global Water Shortage Risk Is Worse Than Scientists Thought

The growing risk of worldwide water shortages is worse than scientists previously thought, according to a new study.

More than 70 percent, which is 4 billion people, of the world’s population lives without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year, according to a paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances. Previous studies calculated a lower number, estimating that between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people lived with moderate to severe water scarcity for at least a month out of the year.

Scientists, led by Dr. Arjen Hoekstra of the Netherlands’ University of Twente, used a computer model that is both more precise and comprehensive than previous studies have used to analyze how widespread water scarcity is across the globe. Their model considers multiple variables including: climate records, population density, irrigation and industry.

“Up to now, this type of research concentrated solely on the scarcity of water on an annual basis, and had only been carried out in the largest river basins,” Hoekstra said in a statement. “That paints a more rosy and misleading picture, because water scarcity occurs during the dry period of the year.”

“The fact that the scarcity of water is being regarded as a global problem is confirmed by our research,” Hoekstra added. “For some time now, the World Economic Forum has placed the world water crisis in the top three of global problems, alongside climate change and terrorism.”

Severe water scarcity happens when consumption is twice as high as available resources, according to the study’s researchers. Consequently, half of those suffering from water scarcity are in the world’s two most populous countries — India and China — where demand is high.

High-scarcity levels are also widespread in areas with significant irrigated agriculture (like the Great Plains in the United —> Read More