Water Stressed Countries

Currently, 41% of the population resides in regions under water stress.[1] About 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries. Out of this number, 733 million live in high and critically water-stressed nations.[2] And, at least one month a year, nearly two-thirds of the population, or 4 billion people, suffer from water scarcity.[3]

Among the worst off are the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).[4] These countries receive less rainfall, and the region’s nations are densely populated and quickly growing. These countries are examples of physical scarcity when it comes to water.

Central African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo exemplify countries that get plenty of rainfall but lack infrastructure to manage water supply. That said, 82% of MENA’s wastewater is not reused and therefore is poorly managed, too.[5]

One-quarter of the global population live in the 18 countries with extremely high water stress. They are:

  1. Qatar
  2. Israel
  3. Lebanon
  4. Palestine
  5. Iran
  6. Jordan
  7. Libya
  8. Kuwait
  9. Saudi Arabia
  10. Eritrea
  11. United Arab Emirates
  12. San Marino
  13. Bahrain
  14. India
  15. Pakistan
  16. Turkmenistan
  17. Oman
  18. Botswana[6]

Even in countries categorized as “low” when it comes to water issues, there are regional pockets that experience problems. For example, South Africa ranks #49, but the Western Cape has extremely high stress levels.[7]

Even the United States experiences water stress. Aging infrastructure, droughts, floods and fast population growth have caused crises. About 240,000 water main breaks annually waste more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water, which is 18% of the treated water supply.[8]

The number of water stressed countries is expected to increase. By 2025, half of the population worldwide could face water scarcity.[9]

Learn more about water stress

[1] “Water Scarcity.” WWF. https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity. Accessed March 4, 2022.
[2] “Water Scarcity.” United Nations. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/scarcity/. Accessed March 2, 2022.
[3] Mekonnen, M. and Hoekstra, A. “Four billion people facing severe water scarcity.” Science Advances. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1500323. February 12, 2016.
[4] Felter, C. and Robinson, K. “Water stress; A global problem that’s getting worse.” https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.
[5] Willem Hofste, R. et al. “17 Countries, home to one-quarter of the world’s population, face extremely high water stress.” https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] McBride, J. “The beleaguered U.S. water system.” https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/beleaguered-us-water-system. July 18, 2017.
[9] “Water Scarcity: Addressing the Growing Lack of Available Water to Meet Children’s Needs.” UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/wash/water-scarcity. Accessed March 2, 2022.
* Orazgeldiyew. “Water scarcity in several African countries.” Wikimedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Afirkany%C5%88_birn%C3%A4%C3%A7e_d%C3%B6wletlerind%C3%A4ki_suw_%C3%BDetmez%C3%A7iligi.jpg. November 5, 2018.