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Water Stress: A Global Problem That’s Getting Worse

Water scarcity threatens the health and development of communities around the globe. Climate change is intensifying the problem, pushing governments to find more innovative, collaborative ways to address water stress.

Summary

  • Water scarcity happens when communities can’t fulfill their water needs, either because supplies are insufficient or infrastructure is inadequate. Today, billions of people face some form of water stress.
  • Countries have often cooperated on water management. Still, there are a handful of places where transboundary waters are driving tensions, such as the Nile Basin.
  • Climate change will likely exacerbate water stress worldwide, as rising temperatures lead to more unpredictable weather and extreme weather events, including floods and droughts.

Billions of people around the world lack adequate access to one of the essential elements of life: clean water. Although governments and aid groups have helped many living in water-stressed regions gain access in recent years, the problem is projected to get worse with the harmful effects of global warming and population growth.

Water stress can differ dramatically from one place to another, in some cases causing wide-reaching damage, including to public health, economic development, and global trade. It can also drive mass migrations and spark conflict. Now, pressure is mounting on countries to implement more sustainable and innovative practices and to improve international cooperation on water management.

Continue learning more about Global Water Stress written by Claire Felter and Kali Robinson here.

LAST UPDATED

October 21, 2023

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Council on Foreign Relations

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