26 August 2019

Taking on SDG 6: Launch of the Water Scarcity Clock

IIASA contributed to the development of the Water Scarcity Clock – a free webtool that allows decision makers to monitor the number of people around the globe suffering from water scarcity in real time. The new tool aimed at policymakers was launched in Stockholm on Sunday, 25 August to mark the start of this year’s World Water Week.

© Riccardo Lennart Niels Mayer | Dreamstime.com

© Riccardo Lennart Niels Mayer | Dreamstime.com

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 calls for a sufficient supply of clean water and sanitation for all people. Achieving this goal is however a mammoth task, as ensuring universal safe and affordable drinking water will involve reaching about 785 million people who lack basic services, as well as improving accessibility to and safety of sanitation services for at least two billion people around the world. It is clear to see that decision makers will need reliable, science based data and information to inform activities around water policy formulation, infrastructure planning, allocation and monitoring of resources, and the evaluation of existing programs and projects related to sustainable water management in their countries.

The new Water Scarcity Clock, jointly developed by IIASA, the World Data Lab, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), gives decision makers in international organizations and national departments who are working towards achieving SDG 6 by 2030 the ability to interactively explore water availability in affected parts of the world from 2000 to 2030.  The tool is able to provide granular and actionable information on water scarcity towards the achievement of clean water and sanitation for all people. Users can see which shares of the population live in areas where water availability is less than 500 m3, 1,000 m3, and 1,700 m3 per person. A country or region is seen as experiencing water stress when annual water supplies drop below 1,700 m3 per person per year. At levels between 1,000 and 1,700 m3, periodic or limited water shortages can be expected. When water supplies drop below 1,000 m3, the country faces water scarcity. The water data, including water availability and the water scarcity index calculation for the current situation, along with projections up to 2050, were produced within the framework of the IIASA Water Futures and Solutions Initiative (WFaS)

Water stress is already a serious issue in 22 countries around the world, particularly in North Africa and Western, Central, and South Asia. In these regions, the water stress level is currently above 70%, indicating a strong probability of continued water scarcity in the future. As climate change alters the hydrological cycle, more and more countries are set to experience water stress, and increasing drought and desertification are further worsening these trends. Projections show that by 2050, at least one in four people will suffer recurring water shortages. It is also important to note that future water scarcity or water stress will not only affect less developed parts of the world. It is in fact already a concern in industrialized countries like Australia and Cyprus. The share of these countries’ population affected by water scarcity is likely to rise from 26.5% and 21.3% in 2016 to 46% and 61.5% by 2030, respectively.

“The water scarcity clock is a striking visual tool that helps policymakers, the media, and the broader public to get a quick impression of what water scarcity is all about and how fast it is affecting more and more people globally because of population growth and climate change. This is a great achievement because it makes a scientifically complex matter accessible for all,” concludes Robert Burtscher, a liaison and stakeholder engagement professional with the IIASA Water Program, who is actively involved with the project.

Adapted from articles originally published by the World Data Lab

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Last edited: 30 August 2019


Peter Burek

Research Scholar Water Security Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 1090


Peter Greve

Research Scholar Water Security Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 484

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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