WRI publishes country chart of water-stress exposure

A ranked list of countries showing their exposure to water-stress was released on 12 December 2012 by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Created by WRI’s Aqueduct team, the rankings track water risk across 181 countries and 100 river basins.

The list reveals that 37 countries face “extremely high” levels of water stress, using more than 80% of the water available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users annually — leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity.

The ranking started with local-level data from the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas. Using statistical methods to account for where water is being used within a particular country, the WRI team brought this data up to the country scale, looking at baseline water stress, as well as floods, droughts, inter-annual variability and seasonal variability.

The WRI believes that it is important for countries to understand the underlying natural factors that drive their water-related risks and respond accordingly. Extremely high levels of baseline water stress, for example, do not necessarily mean that a country will fall victim to scarcity.

The institute cites Singapore, one of 17 countries leading its survey with the highest stress ranking (5.O). The country is densely populated, has no freshwater lakes or aquifers, and its demand for water far exceeds its naturally occurring supply.

“Singapore invests heavily in technology, international agreements and responsible management, allowing it to meet its freshwater needs,” says WRI. “Advanced rainwater capture systems contribute 20% of Singapore’s water supply, 40% is imported from Malaysia, grey water reuse adds 30%, and desalination produces the remaining 10% of the supply to meet the country’s total demand.”

(This has now been updated with the opening of the 318,500 m³/d Tuaspring seawater desalination plant this year – Singapore now gets 25% of its drinking water from desalination, reducing its reliance on imports – Ed.)

Other desalination-rich countries at the top of the list are the UAE (5.0) and Saudi Arabia (4.99). Kuwait (4.96), Oman (4.91), Libya (4.84) and Israel (4.83). The rankings and an interactive map can be viewed on the WRI website.