Logo WATER SCARCITY CLOCK
About us

World Data Lab is a non-profit social enterprise that brings together a global network of experts from diverse fields: business, tech, economics, and demographics, to help organizations harness their potential for data-driven decision making. We join forces with leading public and private institutions to pioneer and disseminate break-throughs in the field of data science. Together with our partners, we build 21st century technology modeling methods in the fields of economics and demography.

The Water Scarcity Clock is brought to you by World Data Lab with funding by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany) and in partnership with the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

What are the features of the Water Scarcity Clock?

This free webtool visualizes the number of people living in water scarce areas. Users can explore affected parts of the world through a variety of interactive functionality. Users can use the Water Scarcity Clock to compare water availability and water use between countries. Water availability numbers are also dynamically presented and adjusted to display the percentage of global and local populations living in areas within different thresholds of scarcity.

Why was this tool created?

The aim of the Water Scarcity Clock is to raise global awareness about the reality of water as a finite resource and provide decision-makers with granular and actionable information to inform action towards global achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.

Why is Water Scarcity an important topic?

Water is a scarce resource. Its natural availability is subject to wide fluctuations. At the same time, demand for water is growing continuously. Increasing water scarcity is affecting global ecosystems, human health, and food security heavily. Lack of safe water access has wide-ranging health implications - 80% of all illnesses in developing countries are attributed to unsafe drinking water and the spread of waterborne diseases. Although food security has significantly increased in the past 30 years, water withdrawals in some regions are not sustainable, and when combined with increasing spatial and temporal variations of water availability, may lead to a crisis. Increased water use by humans has profound negative effects on aquatic ecosystems and their species, causing severe environmental imbalance.

For these reasons, water scarcity is explicitly identified as a major global challenge in target 6.4* of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

*“By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.” (SDG 6.4 target)

What are the causes of water scarcity?

There are many different reasons for water scarcity. Water could be scarce due to a physical shortage (physical water scarcity), or it could be scarce because of institutional failures or the lack of adequate infrastructure to ensure a regular supply, even in places where water is abundant (economic water scarcity). Additionally, there is an increasing demand for water. Globally, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population growth, and it is still increasing in all sectors. The effects of climate change will intensify the risk of droughts as well. Over 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress today and the numbers will continue to increase.
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