Four billion people face severe water shortages worldwide: study
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, or 4 billion people, face severe shortage of water during at least one month each year, a new research paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances cautioned.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Arjen Y. Hoekstra, a professor of water management at the Netherlands-based University of Twente, designed a computer model to generate a more accurate picture of water scarcity worldwide.
They noted that severe scarcity of water can lead to low crop yields and total crop failure, paving for drastic increases in food prices and the resultant famines and widespread starvation. They also estimated that an area experiences severe water scarcity when farms, industries and households use double the amount of water available in that area.
Sharing findings of the study, Dr. Hoekstra said in a statement, “That means that groundwater levels are falling, lakes are drying up, less water is flowing in rivers, and water supplies for industry and farmers are threatened.”
The researchers also found that nearly half of 4 billion people who suffer severe water scarcity during at least one month every year live in China and India. Of the remaining two billion people at risk, the majority of people live mostly in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mexico, Nigeria and the western and southern parts of the U.S.
The new estimate of the number of people at risk of severe water shortages is far bigger than previous estimates, which suggested that 1.7 to 3.1 billion people were affected by extreme shortages of water worldwide.
The NY Times News notes that, about four billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population, face severe water shortages during at least one month every year, far more than was previously thought, according to Arjen Y. Hoekstra, a professor of water management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
“That means that groundwater levels are falling, lakes are drying up, less water is flowing in rivers, and water supplies for industry and farmers are threatened,” Dr. Hoekstra said in an email.
“Freshwater scarcity is a major risk to the global economy, affecting four billion people directly,” Dr. Hoekstra said. “But since the remaining people in the world receive part of their food from the affected areas, it involves us all.”
In other news CS Monitor reported, Fresh water on Earth is scarce and getting scarcer – we know that. In 2015 the World Economic Forum ranked "water crises" as the top risk facing the planet.
"Most of the previous water scarcity studies are done on an annual basis, which hides the actual variability within a year,” co-author Dr. Mekonnen, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Twente, tells The Christian Science Monitor in an email Thursday. To understand water scarcity on the global level, Mekonnen and Hoekstra assessed local "blue water scarcity," or the amount of freshwater that is withdrawn and not returned, on a monthly level.
“Little interest in water has been shown in the meat and dairy sectors, which is surprising given the fact that the meat and dairy sectors contribute more than a quarter to the global water footprint of humanity,” says Hoekstra.
In a statement provided to WashingtonPost News, alarming new research has found that 4 billion people around the globe — including close to 2 billion in India and China — live in conditions of extreme water scarcity at least one month during the year. Half a billion, meanwhile, experience it throughout the entire year.
“We find that 4 billion people live in areas that experience severe water scarcity at least part of the year, which is more than previously thought, based on those earlier studies done on an annual basis,” says Hoekstra, who published the work in Science Advances Friday. “You have to look really month by month, in order to get the scarcity.”
“If it’s a poor country, then the country will be really in trouble, and people will have no food,” Hoekstra says.