Nearly 1.8 billion people, or one-quarter of the Earth’s entire population, live in just seventeen countries which are facing serious water shortages – a problem which is expected to only worsen in the near future.
Of those seventeen nations, which use nearly 80% of their available surface and groundwater in an average year, twelve are in the Middle East and North Africa.
Qatar has the dubious distinction of coming in first place in water shortage issues, with Lebanon and Israel following close behind, according to the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas report, which was presented by the Water Resources Institute in Washington yesterday.
The nations of Iran, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, UAE, San Marino, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Botswana made up the rest of the top 17 countries where water shortages present ongoing problems.
Qatar, which faces the most serious issues with water availability, depends heavily on expensive seawater desalination systems to supply drinking water to its public and industries.
The Middle East and North Africa are home to twelve of the most stressed countries regarding water scarcity, while India, which is in thirteenth place on the list, has more than three times the population of the other 16 countries in its category — combined.
The Situation in Europe
Surprisingly, water is increasingly becoming an issue on the continent of Europe as well. According to the World Resources Institute data, seven EU countries are already suffering from water scarcity, including Spain, Italy and Belgium, while Greece is in 26th place in the world, according to a joint study undertaken last year by the Joint Research Center (JRC).
The JRC is the European Commission’s science and public interest service, in which scientists carry out research to provide scientific advice and support for EU policies.
Greece is expected to experience increased water shortages in the future, according to their prognostications.
Experts say that European citizens themselves will not be deprived of drinking water in the near future, but the effects of water scarcity will be evident in forests and agricultural crops, as well as in industry and many other sectors.
According to the JRC, high population density, climatic stressors, water scarcity, and power imbalances are the main factors which push countries towards either political tensions — or cooperation — especially in areas which share trans-boundary river basins.
Climate change can help worsen already-existing problems, something the World Bank also noted in its most recent report.
If water-management policies do not change, and the climate models developed by the international scientific community prove to be accurate, then “water scarcity will spread to areas that are not currently in trouble, and will worsen significantly in places where water is already inadequate,” according to the World Bank report.