Updated data produced by the World Resources Institute Aqueduct project show that 17 countries—that contain about one-quarter of the world’s population—now confront “extremely high” levels of water stress. Countries facing “extremely high” water stress are located largely in the Middle East, and include Qatar, Israel, Iran and Jordan, but also such countries as Eritrea, India and Pakistan.
The extremely high water stress baseline is defined by those countries
“where irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw more than 80% of their available supply on average every year. Forty-four countries, home to one-third of the world, face “high” levels of stress, where on average more than 40% of available supply is withdrawn every year.”
The factors involved in water crises are not just drought-based, but based on water withdrawals in countries that have doubled since the 1960s to support development patterns like cotton irrigation in Pakistan and India, garment manufacturing in Bangladesh and rapid urbanization in South Africa. This increased water demand means excessive withdrawals from surface water and groundwater, with aquifers depleted faster than current replenishment. In general, wealthier countries like the US and Israel are more capable to overcome their water stress challenges.
Climate change further worsens water stress by intensifying the drought and deluge cycle. This cycle tends to make arid regions even drier—like most countries that are designated extremely high water stressed—while also causing flooding with heavier precipitation events. [NY Times]