Four billion people face water scarcity, a number that is actually twice as high as previous estimates, according to scientists from the Netherlands.
The World Economic Forum stated in 2015 that the water crisis is the top risk that Earth faces. Fresh water on Earth is getting scarcer.
Scientists from the Netherlands said that previous research has underestimated the severity of water scarcity across the globe. Dr. Arjen Hoekstra and Dr. Mesfin Mekonnen at the University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands said that the water crisis is not impacting two billion people around the world, but more like four billion people.
Dr. Mekonnen, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Twente, said that previous studies on water scarcity have relied on annual averages, not showing the actual variability throughout a year. For the new study, Mekonnen and Hoekstra looked at the amount of freshwater that is withdrawn and not returned each month. That way they could assess the scarcity of water on a global level.
The scientists noted that the four billion people do not experience water scarcity for the entire year, but rather for one month a year. According to Dr. Mekonnen, only half a billion people are facing water scarcity all year round.
Dr. Hoekstra explained that it is important for consumers to be informed about the severity of the water crisis around the world so that they can demand transparency from business and governments. For instance, no one is questioning the meat and dairy sections although they contribute more than a quarter to the global water footprint, according to Dr. Hoekstra.
The study also suggested that water scarcity may be linked with population levels, rather than how developed or undeveloped a country is. Both China and India – two of the most populated countries in the world – are experiencing water scarcity. Other populations facing water scarcity live in the United States, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, and Bangladesh, the researchers found. These are five of the ten most populated countries worldwide.
To make sure that water consumption does not exceed the maximum sustainable levels, governments should put a limit on water footprints per month and per river basin, according to Dr. Mekonnen. Human, environmental, economic, and social costs can also be assessed by measuring the water scarcity levels with accuracy, Dr. Mekonnen added.
The new report was published Friday (Feb. 12) in the journal Science Advances.
Image Source: concordmonitor