In 2013, the World Resource Institute (WRI) Aqueduct project conducted a water-stress evaluation that looked at 100 river basins in 180 countries. Researchers calculated how much water is withdrawn from the world’s rivers, streams, and shallow bodies of water for industrial, agricultural, and domestic use. They then used this data to score countries on a scale of 1 to 5, with higher numbers correlating to higher levels of water stress. As a result of the study, WRI discovered that 36 countries have dangerously low water supplies.
Read on to learn about some of the countries facing the highest risk of water scarcity and what their governments are doing about it.
According to WRI’s research, Singapore ranks highest in water stress, with a score of 5.0. The very populous island nation consumes more than 400 million gallons of water every day and has the disadvantage of having no freshwater lakes. To address this situation, government officials have made providing safe and reliable sources of water a top priority and have devised a number of sophisticated water-acquisition strategies to accomplish this.
The country’s inaugural prime minister, Kuan Kew, first tackled the water crises of the 1960s and 1970s, developing a plan that took more than three decades to come to fruition. This plan included using recycled water, including wastewater, through a special process called NEWater purification. The water obtained by this process is currently meeting about 30 percent of the country’s daily water needs. The rest of the country’s water supply comes from desalinated water, imported water, and collected rainwater.
Antigua and Barbuda
The islands of Antigua and Barbuda have been suffering from severe rainfall shortages that have stripped residents of the ability to have running water on a regular basis. According to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), without significant rain, residents may face dry taps.
For the past few years, APUA has engaged in a variety of water conservation methods, including rationing potable water. Residents complain that even when rain is abundant in the area during the months of November and December, they still experience occasional water cut-offs. Another issue plaguing Antigua and Barbuda is the country’s lack of investment in repairing older dams or building new ones.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Despite being home to Dubai—one of the world’s most glamorous and popular travel destinations—the United Arab Emirates is facing a water scarcity emergency similar to those experienced by many developing countries. The UAE’s problem is partially due to its arid climate and low rainfall amounts, combined with human activities such as wasteful watering practices.
At more than twice the global national average of 250 liters per person per day, the UAE’s average of nearly 550 liters of water per person per day is one of the world’s highest levels of per capita water usage. Despite this figure, UAE residents continue to use spray irrigation methods, like sprinklers, because they are inexpensive. The problem is that although the upfront cost is relatively small, sprinklers are not efficient methods of delivering water in arid climates, where more than half of the water sprayed evaporates before the plants can absorb it.
Officials in the UAE are highly aware of the country’s looming water crisis and are intensifying their efforts to popularize more effective irrigation methods, like underground pipes and drip irrigation. Drip irrigation works by placing perforated tubing by the roots of plants so that the water goes directly to the plant’s roots, thus significantly reducing the problem of evaporation. Not only is drip irrigation better for plant health, but it also uses an estimated 25 percent less water than sprinkler irrigation systems do.
Another popular tourist destination, Jamaica is also struggling with a water scarcity problem. Jamaica has several dry periods throughout the year as well as typical rainy seasons, but the dry periods sometimes last longer than normal. Because the country is so small, long stretches of drought can affect the entire region, thereby exacerbating the problem. In these cases, municipalities ration out water to residents, and potable water is occasionally unavailable.
Even taking into account the extra-long dry seasons, Jamaican weather is relatively predictable. Yet, despite consistent patterns of rainfall over the last three decades, the country lacks a comprehensive system to catch, store, and distribute water. In fact, over a quarter of Jamaican homes lack running water. Jamaica is also susceptible to hurricanes, and the nation’s lack of water planning directly affects how much freshwater is available following one of these disasters.