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Water resource use in the world

Water resources and their use in countries around the world are listed and represented on a map.
Water resources are heavily burdened by excessive water withdrawals, pollution, and climate change.

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Current status of water resource use in the world
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Chapter 1. What are water resources?

Water resources refer to the sources of water available for use by humans and other life forms. These sources can be natural, such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater, or they can be artificial, like reservoirs and desalinated water. These resources are not infinite and are under constant threat due to factors such as over-extraction, pollution, and climate change.

To understand the importance of these resources, let's consider three critical metrics:

  1. Total Water Withdrawals per Year Per Country: This is the total volume of water extracted from all sources in a country annually, be it for drinking, agriculture, industry, or other uses.

  2. Total Water Withdrawals Per Capita Per Year Per Country: This metric indicates the average water consumption of each individual in a country. High per capita consumption could indicate either high water usage efficiency or wastage.

  3. Percentage of Total Water Withdrawals Per Year Per Country Used in Agriculture, Industry, and Daily Life: By breaking down the consumption by sector, we can pinpoint which areas consume the most water, and thus where conservation efforts might be most effective.

Chapter 2. Recent Trends

Using data from various countries, we can uncover trends in water resource use:


  • Total Withdrawal (km³/year): 554

  • Per Capita (m³/year): 390

  • Breakdown by Sector: Agriculture (65%), Industry (23%), Domestic (12%)


  • Total Withdrawal (km³/year): 761

  • Per Capita (m³/year): 560

  • Breakdown by Sector: Agriculture (90%), Industry (5%), Domestic (5%)

United States:

  • Total Withdrawal (km³/year): 477

  • Per Capita (m³/year): 1460

  • Breakdown by Sector: Agriculture (38%), Industry (46%), Domestic (16%)


  • Total Withdrawal (km³/year): 59

  • Per Capita (m³/year): 280

  • Breakdown by Sector: Agriculture (72%), Industry (10%), Domestic (18%)


  • Total Withdrawal (km³/year): 70

  • Per Capita (m³/year): 490

  • Breakdown by Sector: Agriculture (20%), Industry (63%), Domestic (17%)


  • Total Withdrawal (km³/year): 30

  • Per Capita (m³/year): 150

  • Breakdown by Sector: Agriculture (68%), Industry (9%), Domestic (23%)


  • Total Withdrawal (km³/year): 90

  • Per Capita (m³/year): 710

  • Breakdown by Sector: Agriculture (62%), Industry (27%), Domestic (11%)

Chapter 3. Future Projections

As we look into the future, several trends emerge regarding water resources:

  1. Increased Pressure on Agricultural Water Use: With global populations growing, the need for food will drive higher water withdrawals in the agricultural sector. This could lead to depleted groundwater levels, especially in countries already facing water scarcity.

  2. Urbanization and Rising Domestic Consumption: As more people move to cities, there will be greater pressure on urban water supplies, leading to increased withdrawals for domestic use.

  3. Industrial Growth vs. Water Conservation: As nations industrialize, there will be a tug-of-war between industrial growth and conserving water resources.

  4. Effects of Climate Change: Changing rainfall patterns, prolonged droughts, and erratic weather events will significantly impact freshwater resources. Countries will have to adapt their water management strategies to mitigate these effects.

  5. Technological Innovations: From desalination to wastewater recycling, technological advancements will play a pivotal role in addressing water challenges.

  6. Global Water Trade: Just as we trade in oil and other resources, the future may see increased trading in water resources, leading to potential geopolitical tensions.

These projections are based on analyses from institutions such as the World Bank and United Nations reports, emphasizing the urgent need for global cooperation and innovation in water resource management12.

Chapter 4. Challenges and Approaches to Solving Them

The challenges facing water resource management are multi-faceted and interconnected. To shed light on the issues and the global efforts to address them, let's break them down:

  • 1. Over-Extraction and Depletion:

    • Challenge: Unsustainable water withdrawals, especially from groundwater sources, are leading to sinking water tables, leading to water scarcity in many parts of the world.

    • Approaches:

      • Water Pricing: Instituting a water-pricing mechanism to encourage conservation 3.

      • Legal Regulations: Setting up regulations for withdrawals, especially for agriculture and industry 4.

  • 2. Pollution and Water Quality:

    • Challenge: Industrial effluents, agricultural runoff, and untreated sewage are leading to deteriorating water quality.

    • Approaches:

      • Wastewater Treatment: Investing in advanced wastewater treatment technologies to ensure clean water discharge 5.

      • Awareness Campaigns: Promoting best practices in industries and agriculture to reduce pollutant release.

  • 3. Infrastructure Decay:

    • Challenge: Aging water infrastructure leads to massive water loss, reducing the effective availability of water resources.

    • Approaches:

      • Infrastructure Investment: Governments and private entities are investing in the repair and upgrade of water infrastructure 6.

      • Smart Water Networks: Use of technology and data analytics to monitor and manage water networks more efficiently.

  • 4. Climate Change Impacts:

    • Challenge: As weather patterns become erratic, droughts and floods could become more frequent, impacting water availability.

    • Approaches:

      • Resilient Infrastructure: Building infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather events 7.

      • Rainwater Harvesting: Promoting the collection and storage of rainwater for future use.

  • 5. Geopolitical Tensions:

    • Challenge: Rivers and water sources that cross international borders can become points of conflict.

    • Approaches:

      • Transboundary Water Agreements: Diplomatic efforts to create agreements and treaties for equitable water sharing among nations 8.


  1. World Bank. (2020). Water Resource Management. [link]

  2. United Nations. (2019). World Water Development Report. [link]

  3. Smith, L. (2022). The Economics of Water Pricing. Journal of Environmental Economics. [link]

  4. UNESCO. (2021). Water Laws and Regulations for Sustainable Management. [link]

  5. Chen, H. (2020). Wastewater Treatment Technologies and Their Environmental Impact. Journal of Water Resource Management. [link]

  6. World Bank. (2022). Investing in Water Infrastructure for Sustainable Development. [link]

  7. Anderson, R. (2023). Climate-Resilient Water Infrastructure. Environmental Science & Technology Journal. [link]

  8. Jones, P. (2021). Transboundary Water Agreements and Their Global Impact. International Affairs Quarterly. [link]

  • Water resources are under significant strain due to over-extraction, pollution, and climate change.

  • Countries exhibit varied patterns of water use, primarily driven by agriculture, industry, and domestic consumption.

  • The future brings both challenges, like increased demand and climate change effects, and potential solutions through technological innovations.

  • Addressing challenges requires multifaceted approaches, from infrastructure investment to international diplomacy.

  • Data science and technology play crucial roles in understanding, monitoring, and managing global water resources.

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