4 Billion People Face Water Scarcity


Water shortages are affecting two-thirds of world’s population for at least month every year, a statistic far worse than previously thought. (The Guardian)

Use our lesson plan to answer the question: Will There Be Enough Fresh Water?

Educators, scroll down for a quick list of resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

What areas of the world are at greatest risk for water scarcity? Where are the most people impacted? Map by Mesfin M. Mekonnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra, courtesy Science Advances. CC-BY-NC-4.0
What areas of the world are at greatest risk for water scarcity? Where are the most people impacted?
Map by Mesfin M. Mekonnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra, courtesy Science Advances. CC-BY-NC-4.0

Discussion Ideas




  • Take a look at the map at the top of this post. Where are areas with low year-round water scarcity?
    • According to the research, “Year-round low blue water scarcity can be found in the forested areas of South America (notably the Amazon basin), Central Africa (the Congo basin), and Malaysia-Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo, New Guinea) and in the northern forested and subarctic parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. Other places with low water scarcity throughout the year can be found in the eastern half of the United States, in large parts of Europe, and in parts of South China.”
    • Use this activity to map the world’s watersheds (river basins), and better understand why water scarcity is low in these regions.


  • Where are regions with high year-round water scarcity?
    • Regions with high year-round water scarcity fall into two broad categories: those with intense human activity, and those with natural arid areas. According to the research:
      • human activity: “High water scarcity levels appear to prevail in areas with either high population density (for example, Greater London area) or the presence of much-irrigated agriculture (High Plains in the United States), or both (India, eastern China, Nile delta).”
      • natural arid areas: “High water scarcity levels also occur in areas without dense populations or intense irrigated agriculture but with very low natural water availability, such as in the world’s arid areas (for example, Sahara, Taklamakan, Gobi, and Central Australia deserts).”
      • both: “Water scarcity in the Arabian Desert is worse than that in other deserts because of the higher population density and irrigation intensity.” Yemen is particularly at risk.


  • Where are the most people impacted by water scarcity?
    • “Half a billion people face severe water scarcity all year round. Of those half-billion people, 180 million live in India, 73 million in Pakistan, 27 million in Egypt, 20 million in Mexico, 20 million in Saudi Arabia, and 18 million in Yemen. In the latter two countries, it concerns all people in the country, which puts those countries in an extremely vulnerable position.”


  • Huge parts of China and India are at risk for water scarcity, and this impacts other parts of the world. Why?
    • Many developed areas, such as the North America and Europe, import millions of tons of food and consumer goods (such as toys, clothes, and electronics) from China and India every year. The production of these goods relies on the availability of freshwater for purposes such as electricity, cleaning, and manufacturing.




The Guardian: Four billion people face severe water scarcity, new research finds

Nat Geo: Will There Be Enough Fresh Water? lesson

Nat Geo: Freshwater Availability map

Nat Geo: Mapping the World’s Watersheds activity

Nat Geo: Using Fresh Water activity

Nat Geo: The Role of Water in the Generation of Electricity activity

Nat Geo: What’s Your Water Footprint? interactive

(extra credit—this is really readable!) Science Advances: Four billion people facing severe water scarcity

6 thoughts on “4 Billion People Face Water Scarcity

  1. Algae grown on inlandsea phytoplankton deposit in zacatecas mexico makes best element complete fertilizer . hydroponics ,soil less cultivation, is said to use 90% less water and 1/6 th the fertilizer.also a lot less waste into sea and rivers.algae can double every 24 hours and absorbs co2 from air.center of deposit is villa de cos.

  2. Water shortage is one of the big issue in current days. Low rainfall, deforest, unpredictable drought are causing for water shortages. Many countries are facing this issue very badly.

    In India some builder like Radiance Realty are considering this issue ans as they have rain water harvesting and reusing drainage water for cleaning and other purpose. Radiance Realty MD Varun Manian, insisting his project need to be fullfil all this criteria so resident wont get any difficulties.

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