The demand for water often exceeds the supply of resources in many developed as well as developing countries, reports Max Hibling

Huge areas of USA, Australia, India and China are at “extreme risk” from water stress, new research confirmed.

Areas in many developed countries are at “high risk” of water stress as demand often exceeds 80% of total renewable water resources.

The Water Stress Index, developed by Maplecroft, is calculated using the ratio of a country’s total water use, through domestic, industrial and agricultural use, against the renewable supply of water from natural sources, such as precipitation, rivers and groundwater.

The worst affected countries, at “extreme risk” include those in the Middle East and northern Africa, such as Egypt, Kuwait and the UAE.

In these areas there is very little precipitation, of which 85% is lost through, amongst other things, evaporation.

Of particular concern is competing user demand for surface and ground water in southern Australia from agricultural, domestic, industrial and mining sectors, noted the research.

Access to water is vital to all livelihoods but, due to their heavy dependence upon agriculture, the poor are often affected most quickly by shortages.

In India and China, growing populations and rising industrial and agricultural use has led to a high demand for water. However, areas such as north and eastern China, home to Beijing and Shanghai, the demand for and use of water supplies exceeds the available supply. Plans to transfer water from the south, where water is more plentiful, have been proposed to combat this.

High water stress in India and China is particularly important to business as many companies have crucial parts of their supply chain based in these areas.

Parts of southwest USA also face these dangers because groundwater is consumed at a faster rate than it is replenished. The Colorado River often runs dry before reaching the sea, noted Maplecroft. The river provides water for 30m people in the US and Mexico, with a total of 70% of its water siphoned off for irrigation.

“As populations continue to expand and global temperatures rise, governments and businesses must explore and develop new ways to ensure the conservation of water,” said the research.

Some companies are doing this through educational and technical initiatives, such as well drilling and irrigation projects.