According to a new analysis, at least two-thirds of the global population—4 billion people—live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least 1 month every year.
These new findings have dispelled the previous estimates—1.7 billion to 3.1 billion people—and has revealed that global water shortages are far worse than previously thought.
According to the analysis, earlier annual assessments of water scarcity did not account for fluctuating supplies throughout the wet and dry seasons. As a result, previous estimates had significantly underestimated the severity of the issue.
Unsurprisingly, the researchers have linked their recent findings with our species’ reckless and irresponsible life choices. The steady increase in demand—population growth, improving living standards, changing consumption patterns and the increase in meat consumption—has significantly depleted our freshwater sources.
As a result, the freshwater scarcity has become a threat to sustainable development of human society.
“Water scarcity will increase because of growing populations and increasing water demand per person,” said Arjen Hoekstra, lead researcher and a professor of water management at the University of Twente.
In January, the World Economic Forum listed water crises, climate change and mass migration as the three greatest risks of harm to people and economics in the next decade. “If you look at environmental problems, [water scarcity] is certainly the top problem,” said Hoekstra. “One place where it is very, very acute is in Yemen.”
According to reports, Yemen could run out of water in just a few years, and many other places, including Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia are living on borrowed time.
The study concludes that “Putting caps to water consumption by river basin, increasing water-use efficiencies, and better sharing of the limited freshwater resources will be key in reducing the threat posed by water scarcity on biodiversity and human welfare.”