Clean water problems are often big news, whether it’s ongoing crises in American locales like Flint, Michigan or Newark, New Jersey; in 11 cities across the world forecasting as most likely to run out of drinking water; or the widespread concern that two-thirds of the world will face shortages by 2025.
And yet, “water stress is the biggest crisis no one is talking about,” says Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute. “Its consequences are in plain sight in the form of food insecurity, conflict and migration, and financial instability.”1
Water Stress: The Underdiscussed Global Crisis
One recent report from World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that 785 million people lack a basic drinking-water service. Globally, at least 2 billion people use a source contaminated with feces. Contaminated water can transmit diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, and dysentery.2 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says an estimated 801,000 children younger than 5 perish from diarrhea annually, mostly in developing countries.3
Not only is safe, readily available clean water important for public health, WHO says improved water supply, sanitation, and better management of resources “can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.”4
Water scarcity is defined as a lack of freshwater to meet the needs of the population. Many estimate that by 2025 half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.