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Sixty-Nine Countries Facing Extreme Competition for Water: WRI

WASHINGTON, DC, United States

A new study by Washington, DC-based research group the World Resources Institute (WRI) found that 69 of countries around the world are facing extreme competition for water resources and high water stress.

The study, “Aqueduct Country and River Basin Rankings: A Weighted Aggregation of Spatially Distinct Hydrological Indicators,” looked at a total of 181 countries and 100 river basins, using local-level data WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas.

The researchers scored baseline water stress based on factors including the ratio of total annual water withdrawals to total available annual renewable supply, variability in water supply between years, seasonal variation in water supply, flood occurrence and drought severity.

Seventeen of the countries scored 5.0 – the highest water stress ranking. These countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Barbados, Comoros, Cyprus, Dominica, Jamaica, Malta, Northern Cyprus, Qatar, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates, and Western Sahara – use 80 percent of their water resources each year.

Countries in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf region and Central Asia were not far behind in terms of water stress. Meanwhile, a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including South Sudan, Rwanda and the Central African Republic, scored lowest in terms of water stress.

The study also found that in countries like Brazil, Russia and Canada, which are not often considered water stressed because of their vast water resources, “the reality is different.”

“Most of the water use in these countries is concentrated in a few regions with relatively limited supplies, while their water resources are largely remote and inaccessible. For example, over half of Brazilian cities are expected to suffer from lack of water in the near future, portions of Canada’s southern Alberta province are overexploited, and Russia’s grain belt has suffered from several severe droughts over the past decade,” the report said.

WRI said these findings can be useful for making comparisons among countries and major river basins. “Bearing in mind that there are inherent limitations in attempting to summarize entire countries’ relationships with water in a single number, this information can help companies, investors, and governments assess water-quantity-related risk at the country and basin scales,” the report said.

This story is brought to readers free in association with Singapore International Water Week.