Current situation of global Water Resources

Jun. 22, 2020
As global population grows and water demand increases, water stress and the risk of water scarcity is now a common concern.

According to the data from Global International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme(IGB), the amount of global freshwater use in 2014(3.99 trillion m3) was over 6 times more than those in 1901(0.67 trillion m3). Among human activities, fresh water use in agriculture occupies the highest proportion.Fresh water use in industry is slightly more than the consumption in municipal affairs (eg. Households and public service). In the year of 2020, 76% fresh water was used in agriculture and the rest of 24% was shared by industrial and municipal areas.

In this huge consumption of agricultural water use, water footprints significantly vary on food types. Global average water footprint of food production, which includes water requirements across its full supply chain and the quantity of freshwater pollution as a result of production. The water footprints of meat and processed food are much higher than plants.

The World Resource Institute defines water stress into five levels:
 (% of withdrawals to renewable resources)
  • <10% = low stress
  • 10-20% = low-to-medium stress
  • 20-40% = medium-to-high stress
  • 40-80% = high stress
  • >80% = extremely high stress

For the statistic in 2002, 17 countries had extremely high level of water stress, which are mainly located in Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. 84% countries in the statistic were under low water stress. This is resulted in uneven water resource and population.

Water resource, especially for fresh water resource, is limited. As the water demand increases day by day, to constantly improve the water solutions and to distribute water resource evenly are important to the sustainable development worldwide. 


Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2017) - "Water Use and Stress". Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]
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World Bank (2008) – World Development Report (2008): Agriculture for Development. Washington, DC: World Bank. Available online.
Gassert, F., Reig, P., Luo, T., & Maddocks, A. (2013). A Weighted Aggregation Of Spatially Distinct Hydrological Indicators. Available online.
Gassert, F., P. Reig, T. Luo, and A.Maddocks. 2013. “Aqueduct country and river basin rankings: a weighted aggregation of spatially distinct hydrological indicators.” Working paper. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute, November 2013. Available online.