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article imageWater table dropping all over globe — 4 billion people at risk

By Karen Graham     Feb 15, 2016 in Environment
Water is a precious resource the world cannot do without, yet water scarcity is growing faster than previously thought. A new study shows that today, over four billion people are at risk from water shortages.
A new analysis reveals that because of a steadily increasing demand, freshwater scarcity is becoming a threat to the sustainable development of human society, and has become “one of the most difficult and important challenges of this century.”
Previous studies covered in Digital Journal in 2014 looked at water scarcity on an annual scale, showing that over 1.2 billion people around the world were already affected by water scarcity, and an additional one-fourth of the world's people were already facing an economic water shortage. This means the countries they live in don't have the economic infrastructure to harvest water from lakes and aquifers.
The sun scorches an already cracked earth on a farm in the Australian agricultural town of Walgett  ...
The sun scorches an already cracked earth on a farm in the Australian agricultural town of Walgett, on February 11, 2015, during a drought
Peter Parks, AFP/File
The new study assessed water scarcity on a monthly basis, more fully capturing the times of year when water scarcity would be an issue. “Water scarcity has become a global problem affecting us all,” study co-author Arjen Hoekstra, a professor of water management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, said, according to EcoWatch.
The researchers discovered that almost half the four billion people affected by water scarcity for a month or more are located in India and China. Millions of others affected live in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Mexico.
The study also found the U.S. is not immune to the problem of not having enough water. About 130 million people in the states of Texas, California, and Florida are affected by water scarcity for at least one month annually. And additionally, among the rivers noted in the study that are fully or nearly depleted before reaching their end is the Colorado River.
Other rivers around the world that are fully or nearly depleted include the Yellow River in North China, with the most prominent example of a disappearing lake as a result of reduced river inflow being the Aral Sea in Central Asia. And there are half a billion people in the world today that face water scarcity year-round, says the study.
Dying livestock in Kenya.
Dying livestock in Kenya.
Oxfam Internationa/flickr
The study says: “Direct victims of the over-consumption of water resources are the users themselves, who increasingly suffer from water shortages during droughts, resulting in reduced harvests and loss of income for farmers, threatening the livelihoods of whole communities. Businesses depending on water in their operations or supply chain also face increasing risks of water shortages. Other effects include biodiversity losses, low flows hampering navigation, land subsidence and salinization of soils and groundwater resources.”
This study concludes that “Meeting humanity’s increasing demand for freshwater and protecting ecosystems at the same time … will be one of the most difficult and important challenges of this century.” It will take the proper assessment of water scarcity to develop the right response strategies.
The full text of this study, "Four billion people facing severe water scarcity," can be found in the journal, Science Advances, published on February 12, 2016.
More about Water table, 4 billion at risk, Water scarcity, NASA, Sustainability