Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas highlights unprecedented water demand and climate impacts

6 Sep 2023 by The Water Diplomat

The world is on the verge of an unparalleled water disaster, as a result of increasing demand and the unrelenting effects of the climate emergency, according to a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI). The analysis reveals that an alarming 25 percent of the world's population is presently facing significant water stress, with forecasts indicating that an extra billion people would be in this precarious scenario by 2050.

The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, an exhaustive WRI study, provides a bleak picture of the global situation. Regions such as Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Oman, which are home to a fifth of the world's population, are being threatened by significant water scarcity. Even a brief drought could place these countries in a precarious position of water scarcity.

Since 1960, the global demand for water has more than doubled, and by 2050, this need is anticipated to increase by an additional 20 to 25 percent. Population increases, high industrial demands, especially in agriculture, ill-advised water policies, and inadequate investment in water infrastructure all contribute to the soaring demand. The climate issue exacerbates the situation by increasing the frequency of severe droughts and heat waves, which weaken water security.

The Middle East and North Africa are anticipated to be the focus of the catastrophe, with the whole population of these regions facing significant water stress by the middle of the century. Consequences include not only drinking water shortages but also economic setbacks and potential political confrontations that could have global ramifications.

Although Sub-Saharan Africa is not now experiencing significant water scarcity, the region's water consumption is expected to increase by an astounding 163 percent by 2050. This spike, driven by home water usage and agricultural irrigation requirements, might impair the region's planned economic growth, perhaps delaying what was expected to be the fastest-growing economic region in the world.

The problem has repercussions in numerous industries, including energy, agriculture, and public health. In India, for example, water scarcity caused energy losses equivalent to power 1.5 million households for five years. The WRI research advocates nature-based solutions, efficient farming practices such as drip irrigation, and a transition to less water-intensive energy sources such as solar and wind.


According to the WRI research, there is an urgent need for international cooperation. Urgent, coordinated, and focused action is required to solve this escalating problem and avert disastrous outcomes. The global community must unite to handle the water problem head-on, or face severe and widespread consequences.