Global Water Crisis

Water scarcity already affects more than 40% of the world's population and is expected to rise due to global warming with one in four people projected to face chronic or recurring shortages by 2050, according to the United Nations. link  Understanding the earth’s water cycle can help us understand how a warming climate will intensify droughts and floods. The accelerated, imbalanced water cycle is leading to more frequent and heavier bouts of extreme precipitation for some regions while leaving others dry - creating more intense droughts and floods. Over one billion people lack access to water and another 2.7 billion find it scarce for at least one month of the year.

The world’s groundwater.  A new map of Earth's groundwater supply shows where on the planet water is locked up and "hidden" underground. The map, the first of its kind, provides a visual representation of Earth’s groundwater resources and estimates that the planet's total groundwater supply stands at approximately 23 million cubic kilometers. Groundwater is the source of the world's second-largest collection of freshwater, according to the National Groundwater Association. (The planet's primary source of fresh water comes from glaciers and ice caps.) Groundwater is important for energy and food security, human health and healthy ecosystems, but it's also a resource that is at risk from overuse and human pollution. With growing global demand for water, and knowing how much groundwater is being depleted and how much there is, we will be able to estimate how long [it will be] we run out.  link  (pictured - Children and women queue for water at a UNICEF-supported distribution point in a slum area near Djibouti City. The country is one of the most water-scarce in the world and one of the worst-affected by the Horn of Africa.) 


Latest news:

March 19 2018: Water shortages could affect 5bn people by 2050. The comprehensive annual UN study warns of conflict and civilisational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs. Humans use about 4,600 cubic km of water every year, of which 70% goes to agriculture, 20% to industry and 10% to households. Global demand has increased sixfold over the past 100 years and continues to grow at the rate of 1% each year. link



  • Groundwater
  • Conflicts over water
  • Threatened countries
Circle of Blue - covering global water issues - link
National Groundwater Association
- link


Groundwater pollution and exploitation. Groundwater provides nearly half of the world’s water used to grow crops. But that heavy reliance comes at a long-term price. So much water has been pumped from underground that cities, bridges, and canals are sinking. Land in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, has settled between one and three feet in some areas. Bangkok, Dhaka, Manila, and other coastal megacities are seeing their flood risk rise because of groundwater dependence and sinking land. In California, canals that move water across the state have buckled and are carrying less water than their designed capacity. Pollution is a concern as well. Perfluorinated chemicals drew attention from U.S. regulators while in Tamil Nadu farm land and community wells have been shut down because of chromium contamination of groundwater. link

December 2017: Forests are key to fresh water. Freshwater resources are critical to both human civilization and natural ecosystems, but University of British Columbia researchers have discovered that changes to ground vegetation can have as much of an impact on global water resources as climate change. But as land is developed or the green vegetation is destroyed, watersheds are irreversibly damaged. link

World Water Day
World Water Day is about focusing attention on the importance of water. The theme for World Water Day 2018 is "Nature for Water"
- exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century. link   (See video on Cape Town Crisis - link)

December 2017: Central America hashes out agenda for sustainable use of water.
Water is a vitally important issue for the 50.6 million Central Americans, especially farmers who have lost their crops due to a lack or excess of rainfall, as a result of climate change. “All the studies recognise the vulnerability of the region, and point out that the most severe impacts of climate change for Central America will be because of the water issue,” said Salvador Nieto, executive director of Central American Commission for Environment and Development. link

June 2015: NASA data show how the world is running out of water. Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows. link

December 2015.
The global crisis of vanishing groundwater.  Much of the planet relies on groundwater, and in places around the world from the United States to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, so much water is pumped from the ground that aquifers are being rapidly depleted and wells are going dry. As these critical water reserves are pumped beyond their limits, the threats are mounting for people who depend on aquifers to supply agriculture, sustain economies and provide drinking water. Climate change is projected to increase the stresses on water supplies, and heated disputes are erupting in places where those with deep wells can keep pumping and leave others with dry wells. Even as satellite measurements have revealed the problem’s severity on a global scale, many regions have failed to adequately address the problem. Aquifers largely remain unmanaged and unregulated, and water that seeped underground over tens of thousands of years is being gradually used up. link

 Conflicts over water

April 2015: The world will soon be at war over water. Goldman Sachs describes water as “the petroleum of the next century”. Disputes over water tend to start small and local, for instance, with the sort of protests that drought-stricken São Paolo has experienced this year. But minor civil unrest can quickly mushroom, as the bonds of civilisation snap. There are dozens of potential dam-related flashpoints around the world. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which handles international water disputes, says 263 river basins are contested globally. There are already more than 40,000 large dams around the world. These icons of post-war Western development irrigate millions of square miles of farmland and produce a fifth of the world’s electricity through hydropower. link

March 2012: Water likely to cause conflicts. Water problems, including water shortages, poor water quality and floods, during the next decade will contribute to instability in many countries important to U.S. security interests, a U.S. intelligence community report says. The lack of adequate water will be a "destabilizing factor" for some countries that do not have the financial resources or technical ability to solve their internal water problems, the report says. Some 800 million people lack a safe supply of freshwater, the United Nations says. The report cited the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa as critical areas. link

March 2014: Pentagon warns climate change could increase wars.  Pentagon says climate change worsens risks of conflict over water, food and other resources. Although the US military didn’t identify specific regions as making water wars more likely, previous studies have identified central and southern Asia could become increasingly unstable because of potential for water shortages in northern India and Pakistan, and competition among former Soviet Republics. link

 Threatened countries

February 2018: Some of the world's biggest lakes are drying up. Round the globe, climate change is warming many lakes faster than it’s warming the oceans and the air. This heat accelerates evaporation, conspiring with human mismanagement to intensify water shortages, pollution, and loss of habitat for birds and fish. The fingerprints of climate change are everywhere. link

February 2018: Water scarcity - 11 world cities most likely to run out of drinking water. Cape Town is in the unenviable situation of being the first major city in the modern era to face the threat of running out of drinking water. However, Cape Town is just one extreme example of a problem that experts have long been warning about - water scarcity. Over one billion people lack access to water and another 2.7 billion find it scarce for at least one month of the year. A 2014 survey of the world's 500 largest cities estimates that one in four are in a situation of "water stress". According to UN-endorsed projections, global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030, thanks to a combination of climate change, human action and population growth. link   

January 2018: Water crisis intensifies in Cape Town. Cape Town is experiencing the worst drought to hit South Africa in decades; the city's water reserves can only last a few more months. link 

January 2018: Water scarcity threat to India and South Africa. Water scarcity is now a real threat in two developing countries at the forefront of efforts to reduce climate change, India and South Africa. More than a third of India's electricity supply is at risk from water scarcity, which also threatens urban life in parts of South Africa. This is not the tragically familiar story of extreme weather, stunted crops and foreshortened lives. It is a different sort of threat: to urban life, to industrial development, and to attempts to end poverty. In Africa the dangers of water scarcity for one of the continent’s best-known cities, Cape Town, are imminent and, some believe, almost apocalyptic. link 

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