Mapping tool pinpoints countries at most risk of water stress

A global mapping exercise has highlighted that 37 countries across the world are currently experiencing high levels of water stress, making them vulnerable to climate pressures.

Singapore was ranked the highest in terms of water stress – the country is densely populated and has no freshwater lakes or aquifers, and its demand for water far exceeds its naturally occurring supply.

Other countries which also scored highly included northern Cyprus, Malta, Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua and Bahrain.

The country-level water assessment is based on various factors such as baseline water stress, floods, droughts, inter-annual variability and seasonal variability. Countries received a score of 0-5 for each indicator – the higher the score, the greater the exposure to that particular water risk.

Baseline water stress measures how much water is withdrawn every year from rivers, streams, and shallow aquifers for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses. It compares the ratio of total annual water withdrawals to total available annual renewable supply.

Scores above 4 indicate that, for the average water user, more than 80% of the water available is withdrawn annually. That means companies, farms, and residents are highly dependent on limited amounts of water and vulnerable to even the slightest change in supply.

According to Aqueduct, who put the interactive map together, such situations severely threaten national water security and economic growth, especially if a country does not have adequate water management plans in place.

Therefore countries must attempt to understand better the underlying natural factors that drive their water-related risks and respond accordingly.

Extremely high levels of baseline water stress, for example, don’t necessarily mean that a country will fall victim to scarcity. Armed with the right information, countries facing extremely high stress can implement management and conservation strategies to secure their water supplies.

It is hoped that the tool will help governments, financial institutions, companies, and research organisations better prioritise high-risk areas for investments in improved water management.

Maxine Perella

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