Two-third of the world population lives in water-scarce areas

WaterAid report warns of the threats of growing water scarcity across the globe

By Rashmi Verma
Published: Tuesday 19 March 2019
Representational Photo: Getty Images

Around 4 billion people in the world live in physically water-scarce areas, and 844 million don’t have access to clean water close to home, according to the latest report by WaterAid. The report, Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019, will be launched on March 22, 2019 — World Water Day — addressing water footprint for sustainable production and sensible consumption.

The world’s water crisis is getting worse, yet globally we use six times as much water today as we did 100 years ago, driven by population growth and changes in diets and consumer habits.

India is also suffering from the worst water crisis, with one billion people living in water scarcity during at least one part of the year, and around 600 million living in areas of high to extreme water stress.  

The report noted that export of food and clothing items, while important sources of income, exacerbates this problem if production is not made sustainable, making it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get access to clean water supply.

Industrial and agricultural use of water cannot be at the cost of people getting water to meet their basic needs. Two-third of the world’s population lives in water-scarce areas, where for at least one part of the year demand exceeds supply.

This number is expected to go up to 5 billion by 2050. One in nine people around the world currently do not have clean water close to home. These numbers are even more staggering for India.

Groundwater depletion rampant in India

At 24 per cent, India uses the most groundwater drawn out globally — more than that of China and US combined. The rate of groundwater depletion has increased by 23 per cent between 2000 and 2010. Also, India is the third largest exporter of groundwater — 12 per cent of the global total.

India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index, with 75 per cent of households that lack drinking water supply in their premises, stated the report.

As Indian government committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 — which promises that by 2030 everyone will have access to clean water — decent sanitation and good hygiene.

The human right to water must take priority ahead of other competing demands. Judicious use of water and encouraging the reuse of water are two key undertakings from the report for citizens to be aware of both visible water consumption and virtual water footprint.

At the government and institutional levels, promotion of better agriculture practices, regulation of groundwater use and promotion of groundwater recharge will help integrate the shortfalls, suggests the report.

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