Enschede, Netherlands – A new report conducted by scientists at the University of Twente, Netherlands, which was published on Friday in the journal Science Advances has found that two-thirds of the entire world’s population are facing severe water scarcity.
A group of scientists, led by Dr. Arjen Hoekstra calculated the number of people suffering water scarcity around the world. They did it by using a computer model that considers multiple variables including climate records, population density, irrigation and industry.
Previous studies calculated a lower number, estimating that between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people lived with moderate to severe water scarcity for at least a month out of the year. This new study, which used a computer model that is both more precise and comprehensive than previous ones showed the number is bigger than previously thought.
“Up to now, this type of research concentrated solely on the scarcity of water on an annual basis, and had only been carried out in the largest river basins […] That paints a more rosy and misleading picture because water scarcity occurs during the dry period of the year,” Hoekstra said in a statement.
The research also signposted that around 500 million people live in places where water is consumed twice the amount that comes from rain, leading to even bigger shortage problems when drought occurs. In addition, an estimated 1.8 billion people face severe water scarcity at least half of the year.
Hoekstra explained that even just one month of severe water scarcity can have a devastating impact and that freshwater scarcity is a major risk to the global economy.
According to the study, China and India alone represent 50% of the 4 billion people who are going through water scarcity. Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico and the U.S., which are five out of the top ten most populated countries globally, are also facing severe runs of water scarcity.
The study recommends ways to reduce scarcity, such as increasing reliance on rain-fed rather than irrigated agriculture, improving the efficiency of water usage. The researchers point out that for these solutions to be effective, governments, corporations and investors will need to cooperate.
Source: Science Mag