Countries home to quarter of world’s population facing ‘extremely high’ water stress

17th August 2023

A total of 25 countries – home to a quarter of the global population – face extremely high water stress each year, regularly using up almost their entire available renewable supply.

That is according to a new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), which defines a country facing ‘extreme water stress’ as one that uses 80% of its available renewable water supply annually.

The six most water-stressed countries are Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Qatar, leaving them vulnerable to shortages.

The research also found that half of the world’s population — around four billion people — live in countries under ‘highly water-stressed conditions’ for at least one month of the year, using 40% of their supply.

Furthermore, the report suggests that $70trn (£55trn) in GDP – 31% of the global total – will be exposed to high water stress by 2050, up from $15trn in 2010, and that India, Mexico, Egypt and Turkey will account for over half of the exposed GDP.

The findings come just months before the COP28 climate summit in the UAE, which is also one of the world’s 25 most water-stressed countries.

“Water is essential to the progress of human societies. Food production, electricity generation, and manufacturing, among other things, all depend on it. However, many decision-makers lack the technical expertise to fully understand hydrological information,” the report’s authors say.

Overall, they found that water demand has more than doubled globally since 1960, and this is projected to increase by up to 25% by 2050, while the number of watersheds facing high year-to-year variability, or less predictable water supplies, is expected to increase by 19%.

For the Middle East and north Africa, this means 100% of the population will live with extremely high water stress by 2050.

Without intervention — such as investment in water infrastructure and better water governance — the report authors warn that the issue will continue to get worse, particularly in places with rapidly growing populations and economies.

“But water stress doesn’t necessarily lead to water crisis,” they continue. “For example, places like Singapore and the US city of Las Vegas prove that societies can thrive even under the most water-scarce conditions by employing techniques like removing water-thirsty grass, desalination, and wastewater treatment and reuse.

“Every level of government, as well as communities and businesses, must step up to build a water-secure future for all.”

Image credit: Shutterstock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Weather damage insurance claims hit record high

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close