increasing marginal utility water drought

How To Cope With (Water) Stress

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 16, 2014    •    994 Views

Being water stressed means you are unusually vulnerable to a water shortage. Sort of like a household where one emergency can push it over the edge because it spends all it earns, so too with most water stressed nations. That one drought or technical failure can devastate a water supply.

After gathering data from 180 countries, the Water Resources Institute listed the world’s most water stressed countries:

Water stressed countries

water stressed countries

From: Water Resources Institute

Being water stressed, though, does not mean that you have an unsolvable problem. Because Singapore is densely populated, has no fresh water lakes and no aquifers and uses 80% of its available water annually, it is severely water stressed. However, through international water importing agreements with Malaysia, advanced technology that captures rainwater, a desalination program, and gray water reuse, its water management is exemplary. Consequently, though highly stressed, Singapore has a stable water supply.

Interestingly, most sub-Saharan nations are not in the high water stress group.

The World's Most Water Stressed Countries

And yet, UN Millennium Reports cite drinking water as a major problem. Their analysis primarily focuses on an urban/rural divide and a wealth gap:

Water Supply for Drinking sub-Saharan Africa

Fron: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2012, p. 53.


And the high opportunity cost for women:

Water Stress and women

From: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2012, p. 54.

Our bottom line: For developed areas of the world, the problem of water stress is solved with technology. In the developing world, in the absence of technology, the human capital cost is high.

Sources and Resources: Reports on water stress and the availability of drinking water are here and here while volumes have been written about Singapore’s successful solution to its water challenge.



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