We need water to live. From droughts to floods to infrastructure, a full quarter of the world’s population is facing water stress and scarcity. These crises only seem to be getting worse in the coming years. However, there are major countries with a water scarcity problem.
Water is a complex issue given that there is no one primary cause for the global water crisis. Water scarcity is a more objective means of comparing the availability (or lack thereof) of water across countries, usually representing the ratio of a region’s water demand to its water supply.
This means that we can quantify the water crisis on the whole. However, population growth and climate change are major culprits of water scarcity. Yet, we often neglect the impact of governmental policies on water supplies.
Water scarcity is a situation in which the supply of fresh water is not sufficient to meet the demand for it, which is directly related to the growth of the world’s population. And they are countries with water scarcity.
The World Resources Institute has ranked countries by their water stress and categorized them into five different levels: extremely high, high, medium-high, low-medium, and low baseline water stress.
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Basic Facts about Water Scarcity
- According to UN-Water, 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries
- According to UNICEF, 1.42 billion people – including 450 million children live in regions of high or extremely high water vulnerability
- 785 million people lack access to basic water services
- The WHO reports that 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water
- Two-thirds of the world’s population experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year
- The Global Water Institute estimates that 700 million people could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030
- 3.2 billion people live in agricultural areas with high water scarcity
- Approximately 73% of people affected by water scarcity live in Asia.
10 Countries with Water Scarcity
Water scarcity, as a broader term, basically means that there is not enough potable water to meet demand. This not only accounts for what’s available, but also the quality of water, environmental factors that determine a country’s future water availability, and public management of water infrastructure.
The names we use or the order we put countries in notwithstanding, the problem is the same. Unfortunately, these ten countries are the top countries suffering from this environmental dilemma.
Yemen, officially known as the Yemen Republic, is a country located in western Asia. It is situated on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula and borders Saudi Arabia. Yemen is a hotbed of conflict and a waypoint for terrorists traveling through the Middle East, and as such, it is often in a weak position to receive aid that includes fresh water.
The country has little natural fresh water to use and relies heavily on water from other sources. Political strife in the region often prevents the people from receiving many necessities, and water is chief among them. Some experts project the country’s capital, Sanaa, will be the first major city in the world to run out of water.
This is a country located in Eastern Africa that has long been the target of humanitarian aid from familiar acronyms like UNICEF and UNHCR, and Djibouti’s legacy as a refugee corridor and strategic military position has always made it a stress point for adequate water supply.
Due to the arid nature of their climate, the region is always prone to drough, frequently leavings millions without reliable access to fresh water.
It has been reported that more than 71% of Lebanon’s population is faced with critical water shortages. And as the case may be, the situation is on the rise due to ongoing drought in the Middle East combined with Lebanon’s economic crisis and the country’s poorly-managed water systems.
The economic crisis affected commodity prices to a large extent, making things like access to water more difficult. The most vulnerable residents face the greatest impacts of this water scarcity, especially Lebanon’s large refugee communities, which lack reliable access to basic sanitation services. Health centers around the country, including the capital of Beirut, are also faced with life-threatening water shortages.
One gallon of bottled water in 2019 was sold for approximately 1000 Lebanese pounds today, that price is closer to 8,000 pounds According to the World Resources Institute, Lebanon has the third-highest risk for water scarcity in the world, while it has been discovered as overall in the Middle East with the region having the highest rates of water scarcity, and the effects carry an impact beyond borders.
Pakistan is facing a serious water crisis. The country is rapidly moving from being classified as a “water-stressed nation” to a “water-scarce nation.”
Pakistan’s water scarcity is mainly explained as a result of population increase, ineffective management, urbanization, progressive industrialization, lack of water storage facilities, and most importantly climate change, although rural parts of the country also consume high amounts of water for farmland, most of which is irrigated through canal systems that are under-priced.
Statistics show that over 80% of Pakistan faces water scarcity at least one month of the year. If this situation remains unaddressed, it is likely that the whole country will face water scarcity by 2025, as warned by the United Nations Development Program and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources.
On this premise, the government is taking measures to help the water crisis in Pakistan. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to address the ongoing water issue in the country.
Water has become even scarcer in Afghanistan in the wake of the recent political upheaval and transition in the country, the latest developments of several decades of war fed by conflict, instability, natural disasters, economic insecurity, and climate change, including the worst drought in the last 27 years.
UNICEF estimates that 8 out of every 10 Afghans drink unsafe water, and 93% of the country’s children live in areas with high water scarcity and vulnerability. And according to US AID, just 42% of Afghans have access to safe drinking water and only 27% have access to sanitation facilities.
The breakdown of water services in urban settings has halved water availability and increased contamination from wastewater. Continuous water scarcity has affected the agricultural sector and the food security of the nation. As 90% of the country’s water use was for the 80% human population, with insufficient water for the agricultural sector thereby affecting the production of food.
Concern has been in Afghanistan since 1998 and will remain as long as it’s safe for us to continue our programs. This includes watershed management, the practice of maintaining an area of land that channels all the water running underneath it into a single, larger body of water for communities to use.
More than ten years of consistent conflict have severely affected the availability of essential services in Syria, including access to safe and fresh water. At the end of 2021, northern Syria was experiencing its worst drought in nearly 70 years due to an insufficient flow of water from the Euphrates River.
Over a decade of conflict, increasing climate change and related weather events have also contributed to their water issues. Before 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported, 98% of people in Syria’s cities and 92% of people in its rural communities had reliable access to safe water.
That’s dropped by over 40%, with only 50% of water and sanitation systems still functioning. “The triggers of the water crisis are layered and complex,” the Red Cross writes, “but one thing is clear: they are the direct and indirect consequences of the ongoing conflict.”
Water scarcity has also been linked to the beginnings of the current conflict as well as historical conflicts in the country. According to October 21, 2021, United Nations Security Council report, people in the northern and northeastern regions of Syria remain unable to access sufficient supplies of safe water.
Egypt is one of several countries with water scarcity right now. Though it is considered relatively low water-stressed when compared to its neighboring countries in the Middle East and North Africa thanks to its access to the Nile River, which supplies about 93% of all water resources in the nation. However, long periods of drought and an increasingly hot and arid climate have shrunk the Nile River, which is the main source of water in Egypt.
According to a UNICEF report in 2021, Egypt is facing an annual water loss of around 7 billion cubic meters, and the country could run out of water by 2025. which is defined by hydrologists as a state of “absolute scarcity.” Climate change is creating even drier conditions in Egypt.
In a bid to address the issue of water scarcity, Egypt’s Prime Minister of Local Development, General Mahmoud Shaarawy, presented an itinerary of government plans to rationalize water use, purify local lakes, and desalinate seawater in May 2022. This is in addition to various national projects aimed at lining water channels, moving to modern irrigation systems, and employing better water conservation ethics across diverse institutional levels.
Though it is home to an array of climates, Turkey is a semi-arid country. Water scarcity has become an increasingly vital issue in Turkey as the country has been classified among water-scarce nations. Like neighboring Lebanon and Syria, Turkey was not immune to extreme water scarcity in the summer of 2021.
Turkey has faced severe droughts since the 1980s on account of the combination of overpopulation, industrialization, urbanization, inadequate water management policies, global warming, and climate change. The water in the dams supplying the major cities of Turkey has constantly been reduced due to a lack of rainfall.
The severe drought conditions are combined with lower groundwater levels. It has been identified that the looming water scarcity if left unaddressed will affect the availability of water as there will be a constant decline to 1000m3 in 2050.
Niger borders Burkina Faso’s northeastern territory and sits completely within the Sahel, leaving the entire country threatened by drought and desertification. Niger is one of the least developed countries in the world. With intense droughts, poor soil conditions, and the gradual spread of the desert, life is hard.
Access to drinking water and sanitation is still very low in Niger, with large disparities between urban and rural areas and between regions. UNICEF estimates that only 56% of Nigeriens (over 12.8 million people) have access to a source of drinking water, and just 13% (1.8 million) have access to basic sanitation services.
As their lifeline which was once the world’s largest lake, (Lake Chad). More than 40 million people depend on it for their water and food. However, the lifeline of the lake is shrinking, with the lake already losing 90% of its water whose loss can be attributed to climate change, deforestation, and field irrigation as a result water scarcity keeps increasing.
Water scarcity in India is an ongoing crisis that affects nearly hundreds of millions of people each year. India represents about 17%–18% of the global population, but only possesses 4% of the world’s freshwater, which makes it one of the most water-stressed nations in the world.
It seems that the situation will soon be aggravated after China launches an ambitious project in 2021 to build the world’s most powerful hydroelectric plant on the upstream stretch of the Brahmaputra River, which flows from Tibet into India.
India’s water scarcity is often attributed to a lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, and industrial and human waste alongside government corruption, in addition, water scarcity is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2050.
Remember water shortage is not only about a physical lack of water or drinking water but a lack of water for all activities that need to be carried out in the environment ranging from agricultural, and industrial to domestic activities.
It is often more about economic resources, which is what makes it so important to understand that the global water crisis is a human problem rather than a series of isolated geographical inconveniences.
Ensuring access to clean water and sanitation and providing hygiene are key issues that must be considered by different humanitarian agencies and governments of countries.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.