Looking from Enschede in the Netherlands, the world’s future has become even bleaker this year. Professor in Water Management Arjen Hoekstra warns that water scarcity for the world’s population is far greater than was previously known. Hoekstra, who teaches at the University of Twente, looks even more stony-faced as he continues: “Up to four billion people are affected.” Meaning that more than half of the world’s population is running out of water.
To obtain their forecast, a team of hydrologists headed by Hoekstra took a deep dive into the data sets from weather stations all around the world. In contrast to earlier studies, it was the monthly rainfall figures, rather than the annual average values, that particularly interested them. “Estimates for the entire year don’t take into consideration any temporary fluctuations in water availability such as droughts and flooding,” Hoekstra explains.
Global climate change is the main factor in dry regions getting even drier—and in potential increases in arid months even at temperate latitudes. Rising demand for water also represents a huge problem: the world’s population is growing.
What countermeasures can succeed? A look at “water hotspots” around the world shows how complex the problems are—and reveals the often innovative pathways being forged to find solutions.