Water scarcity affects billions of livelihoods each year, with the estimated number of people affected growing from 1.7-3.1 billion people to 4 billion people.
Freshwater is a commodity intimately entwined with our very own existence. While some take it for granted, others believe it a luxury commodity to be treasured. Each year, for at least one month, 4 billion people are affected by water scarcity. The new estimate is part of a newly published study featuring in the Science Advances journal.
Considering our planet is home to a bit over 7 billion people of which 4 billion are affected by water scarcity should be the incentive for better water management policies and mitigation strategies.
Freshwater is used for drinking, agriculture, livestock. Water scarcity may lead to severe conflicts, crop failure and certainly threatened livelihoods. 4 billion people affected by water scarcity is roughly the equivalent of 66 percent of the globe’s population. 66 percent of the globe’s population experiences water scarcity at least one month annually.
Water scarcity is largely defined as the demand being twice the availability of water. As such, according to Mesfin Mekonnen:
“Water scarcity generally occurs only during part of the year, when there is a mismatch between water availability and demand”.
Previous studies also reached the conclusion that water scarcity affects billions of livelihoods each year. However, the emphasis fell on an year-to-year basis and such research was conducted mainly in the largest basins across the world. As such, results indicating that 1.7 to 3 billion people being affected by water scarcity are still a rosier painting of the situation. 4 billion people is a more accurate estimate in line with estimates of the World Economic Forum for instance.
For the past years, water scarcity has been among the top debated crises at the World Economic Forum, in addition to terrorism and climate change.
According to the new study, approximately 1 billion of the people affected by water scarcity are located in India. Another 0.9 billion are found in China. The two largest nations by population numbers face more severe water shortages than others. Central Africa is less prone to severe water scarcity than Northern Africa or the Middle East.
On the other hand, South America or Indonesia or Malaysia are less likely to suffer due to water scarcity. Regions where irrigated agriculture is intensely practiced are also predisposed to more severe water scarcity. Such regions include the U.S. Great Plains. Regions where water is naturally less available will have populations affected by water scarcity.
Both the scientific community and world governments are faced with the fact that water scarcity affects billions of livelihoods each year. However, commitment and strategic planning must precede all efforts to tackle this issue.
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