Pros & Cons Of Water Recycling, Reuse & Reclamation

Pros & Cons Of Water Recycling, Reuse & Reclamation

Water recycling, also referred to as reclamation or reuse, is one of the ways different cities across the world are attempting to address their water issues.

In this guide, we list and explain the different pros and cons to water recycling.


Summary – Pros & Cons Of Water Recycling, Reuse & Reclamation

Water recycling (at water treatment and recycling plants) is one of the more modern water technologies. 

It involves the treatment, filtration and disinfection of waste water (or any water that has been affected by human use) and storm water for different end potable and non potable uses.

Some of the major benefits of water recycling are that it diversifies a region’s water supplies, provides a climate independent water source, is beneficial for hot and dry climates, and is already widely used around the world. It can also help address water scarcity and stress, growing populations, growing demand for energy and food, water pollution from waste water, and make use of different types of water waste resources.

Some of the major disadvantages are the cost of recycled water relative to some others sources of water, and the current level of acceptance and trust the public has in recycled water.

Recycled water likely has a key part to play in the future of many regions around the world because of factors such as a changing climate, global water issues such as water stress and water scarcity becoming worse in some regions, and the potential to still capture and treat the 80% of waste water currently dumped or discharged untreated globally into the environment.

Apart from waste water, grey water, and storm water recycling, desalination, and additional rainwater harvesting are some of the other ways fresh water supplies may be sustainably managed, apart from withdrawing and consuming from surface water and ground water sources.


What Is Water Recycling?

There’s a number of definitions, but a broad one might be:

  • Water that is collected or harvested, treated [to a level adequate to bring it to a quality matching it’s end use], and reused at least once before passing into the environment or or the natural water cycle

The type of water can be water affected by humans (such as waste water, or greywater), or storm water runoff. notes that the definition of water reuse might differ from nation to nation, including variables such as the incidence of reuse. 


Types Of Water Recycling

There’s two main types of water recycling:

  • Water recycling for potable water (drinking water)
  • Water recycling for non potable water (non drinking water). [Recycled non drinking water taps are sometimes marked with a certain color, or have a warning label like ‘Warning: Not For Drinking’. Recycled non drinking water pipes are also sometimes marked with a certain color. Some locations in Australia for example have dedicated purple marked non drinking water pipes and taps]

De facto water reuse is also a type of water reuse (


Different Types Of Water Recycling Plants

They go by many names. A few examples include:

  • Waste water treatment plant
  • Advanced recycled water treatment plant
  • Drinking water treatment plant


Types Of Water That Are Recycled

Different types of water can be recycled, and be re-used for different uses.

Some of the different types of water that are recycled, and what they are reused for are:

  • Waste Water 

As defined by “[Waste water is the] used water that goes down toilets, sinks and drains and into the sewerage system. Also known as sewage. About 99% of it is water”

It might also be classified as the water that outflows from a ‘sewer network, sewage treatment plant or industrial water’ (

Waste water is really any water that has been affected by human use – so, grey water is technically included in waste water (although, it’s a specific type of waste water)


  • Stormwater

Storm water is rain water that runs off of hard surfaces (roads, buildings, pavements, open land, etc.), into stormwater drains, and into local water ways.

After collection from stormwater drainage systems, it is treated and might be reused for uses such as watering lawns and gardens, and flushing toilets.


  • Greywater 

Grey water is a type of waste water. It comes from washing machines, dishwashers, showers, baths and basins at the household, building or precinct level

But, it doesn’t include waste water from toilets or kitchens, or the ‘… dishwasher as this is generally too high in grease and oil to be reused successfully without significant treatment’ (

After capture, it might be used for watering lawns and gardens.


Treatment Process For Recycled Water – How It’s Made

Depending on the end use, recycled water might go through primary, secondary, tertiary and even sometimes advanced treatments, followed by a disinfectant stage.

Read more about the recycled water treatment process here

The process though depends on the individual city, their water recycling capabilities, and the regulations in place for quality, standards and guidelines of recycled water.

Recycled water is safe when it used treated AND used according to the regulations/guidelines in place. The treatment technology usually has to meet certain outcome/performance benchmarks (for safety, and other measurements).

*[There’s also a specialized type of water re-use – called ‘indirect water reuse’ or ‘managed aquifer recharge’ where natural processes refine the water before reuse] ( [Examples include recharging ground water aquifers and augmenting surface water reservoirs with recycled water] (

*[There can also be planned, and unplanned water recycling] (


Pros Of Water Recycling, Reuse & Reclamation

  • Is A Way To Sustainably Manage & Use Water – re-using water is a way to not have to withdraw or consume as much new water from existing supplies. This means we preserve more of the existing water supply, but also, have more existing fresh water for drinking water and other critical or primary uses. This also helps address global water issues like water scarcity and water stress.
  • Can Indirectly Help Address Other Global Issues – by conserving existing water supplies, water recycling also helps address growing populations, growing demand for energy and food (both of which require water to produce), and various types of environmental issues. It can also help replenish ground water aquifers that are depleting.
  • Is Climate Independent – water recycling is a source of water that doesn’t rely on the natural climate like surface water and ground water sources do.
  • Allows Diversification Of Water Sources & Water Risk Within A Region – water recycling can be one several sources of water (such as surface water, ground water, desalination) that provide fresh water to a region. This diversifies water sources and water risk as a result (because regions aren’t reliant on just one type of water source).
  • Good For Dry & Hot Climates – dry climates experience lack of rainfall, and hot climates have issues such as evaporation – both of these things can impact the renewal of natural sources of water like surface water and ground water. Water recycling doesn’t have the same issues to the same extent.
  • Gives Regions More Control Over Their Water – water recycling is usually done locally, so there is more control over this water, as opposed to water that might be sourced externally.
  • Already Used Widely Throughout The World – for example, there are currently 14 water recycling plants in Sydney, Australia alone (
  • Different Types Of Water Can Be Recycled – such as waste water, storm water, and grey water. These water types are considered waste products – so, water recycling helps make use of waste products and contributes to a circular economy.
  • Recycling Specific Types Of Waste Water Can Have Their Own Set Of Individual Benefits – for example, reclaimed water used for agricultural irrigation may already contain certain nitrogen and phosphorus levels, and may have in built fertilizing properties … and, in agriculture “irrigation with wastewater may contribute to improve production yields, reduce the ecological footprint and promote socioeconomic benefits” (
  • Recycled Water Can Be Used For Different End Uses – drinking water (potable water) is one end use. But, there’s also a long list of non drinking water uses such as irrigation of public and private land, agricultural and forestry irrigation, flushing toilets, other household water uses, fighting fires, industrial uses such as washing and cooling in power stations and factories, ground water recharge, environmental flows and wetlands, and more. [Water is even recycled and reused in space] (
  • Recycled Water Can Go To Different End Recipients – such as homes, but also businesses and farms
  • Water Quality Has To Meet Regulations/Laws (In Some Countries) – for example, in Australia, recycled water quality has to meet the ‘Australian Guidelines For Water Recycling’ ( In the US “[the] EPA regulates many aspects of wastewater treatment and drinking water quality, and the majority of states in the US have established criteria or guidelines for the beneficial use of recycled water … [and the EPA has also developed a technical document] ( Internationally, WHO, FAO and UNEP have developed guidelines for the safe use of waste water ( More regulations and guidelines for different regions in the world can be found at
  • Can Recycle Water At High Volumes – for example the St Mary’s Advanced Water Recycling Plant is Sydney, Australia’s largest water recycling project, and produces up to 18 billion litres of very high quality water a year (
  • Is Reliable & Consistent – recycling plants can produce X amount of water per day or per year as long as the financing and energy is there. This is in comparison to natural water sources that may vary with their reliability to provide water because of variable annual rainfall rates, and so on.
  • Recycled Water Can Be Supplied Back Into The Water System Directly, Or Indirectly – through direct injection back into water pipes or water sources, or, through a scheme such as managed aquifer recharge where natural processes filter and process water before re-use. Although direct potable reuse may have more benefits (
  • Potential For Waste Water Recycling Is Potentially Very Highglobally, about 80% of waste water gets discharged back into the environment without being treated.
  • Water Experts Largely Support Water Recycling – [in a 2014 Report] water sector professionals were largely supportive of water recycling [for both potable and non potable water uses] ( One example of a city where experts think water recycling would be a beneficial long term water option is Perth, Australia.
  • Human Health Problems Relating To Recycled Water Treated To Standards Are Basically Non Existent In Some Countries – accordingly to “No documented cases of human health problems due to contact with recycled water that has been treated to standards, criteria, and regulations have been reported [in the US]”
  • People Already Drinking A Form Of Recycled Water Without Knowing It – According to “[The] Thames in London, [and] every town and city on the Thames including London puts its treated wastewater into that river and they pull water out of it to drink … [people in Adelaide, South Australia are also drinking a form of recycled water too
  • Water Can Be Recycled At A Central Treatment Plant, Or On-Site – most water is collected and sent to a main water recycling plant. But, water can also be recycled on-site, like for example at an industrial facility that uses cooling processes
  • Decentralized Water Recycling Sites Can Save Water, Energy & Money – According to “The use of gray water at decentralized sites (see definition) for landscape irrigation and toilet flushing reduces the amount of potable water distributed to these sites, the amount of fertilizer needed, and the amount of wastewater generated, transported, and treated at wastewater treatment facilities. In other words, water reuse saves water, energy, and money.” Also according to “Although it requires additional energy to treat wastewater for recycling, the amount of energy required to treat and/or transport other sources of water is generally much greater.”
  • Has Several Environmental Benefits – such as decreasing diversion of water from ecosystems, decreasing waste water discharge and water pollution, and bettering the health of wetlands and habitats that need the water (
  • Might Use Less Energy Than Desalination, & Be Cheaper – “Recycling waste and gray water requires far less energy than treating salt water using a desalination system.” ( According to via “Recycled water costs about $1,100 an acre-foot to produce, about half the cost of desalinating ocean water” ( Also nas-sites: “Generally, water reuse is more expensive than drawing water from a natural freshwater source, but less expensive than seawater desalination” [and non potable waste water treatment can be most expensive if it requires separate and dedicated water pipes]
  • Can Be Cost Effective Over The Long Term – over longer time periods, the cost of recycling water can average out and be more cost effective. Additionally, the benefits to the economy, environment, water supplies, and so on, should be considered as intangible things that offset some of the cost (some of these things may be priceless). Ultimately though – “The costs of water reuse vary greatly from place to place depending on location, water quality requirements, treatment methods, distribution system needs, energy costs, interest rates, subsidies, and many other factors.” ( It is the cheapest to operate waste water plants and water recycling plants close to where water is traditionally supplied from (
  • Some Sources Indicate Water Recycling Costs No More Than Importing Water – according to “the future cost of recycled and imported water would be about the same, around $1,000 per acre foot”
  • Some Inland Communities Benefit From Water Recycling – because technology like desalination isn’t suitable for that particular inland location due to cost, and logistics (


Cons Of Water Recycling, Reuse & Reclamation

  • Can Be Initially Expensive – According to “the treatment of wastewater for reuse and the installation of distribution systems at centralized facilities can be initially expensive compared to such water supply alternatives as imported water, ground water, or the use of gray water onsite from homes”. For example, in San Diego, “A permanent water recycling plant would cost an estimated $369 million” ( According to [In 2006/07, a $2.5 billion water scheme was commissioned,] but, water would not be used until dam levels fell to 40 per cent 
  • Cost To Produce Recycled Water Can Be Expensive Relative To Some Other Water Sources – in regions where fresh water is plentiful or abundant, water recycling can be more expensive than other water sources like surface water and ground water extraction and use. Costs can include construction costs, dedicated infrastructure costs, quality monitoring and identification of contaminants cost, and so on.
  • Sometimes Has To Be Subsidized & Sold Below Actual Supply Cost – to encourage it’s use in some parts of the world.
  • Can Need It’s Own Dedicated Infrastructure & Pipe System – in places like the US and Australia, purple or lavender marked recycled water pipes, taps and other infrastructure (like storage tanks) are dedicated to recycled water. This infrastructure costs money, and takes up space.
  • Can Carry Commercial Risk & Has Economic Viability Concerns – particularly demand risk in some regions ( There are questions over whether some plants can be feasible from an economic perspective, at least in the short term.
  • Not All Recycled Water Can Be Used For Drinking Water, & Other Specific Uses – Sydney Water notes their recycled water can’t be used for drinking, cooking, bathing, filling pools, and a number of other uses (
  • Public Can Be Skeptical Of Using Or Consuming Recycled Water – the public’s attitudes towards and social acceptance of recycled water can be poor, especially for some types of recycled waste water.
  • Can Have Institutional Barriers To Implementation – such as water management authorities not having water recycling a priority compared to other water supply options, or regulatory barriers. In Australia for example “[there needs to be a] removal of policy barriers to potable reuse” (
  • Some Regions Have Inadequate Or No Regulations On Specific Types Of Water Recycling – According to “Most states [in the US] have regulations governing water quality for water recycling of reclaimed water from centralized treatment facilities, but only about 30 of the 50 states have regulations pertaining to water recycling of gray water”
  • Developing Countries May Reuse Water In An Unsafe Manner – developing countries can use untreated waste water for irrigation, which can become a public health and safety hazard. This water can also further contaminate soil and decrease soil health.
  • Can Have Difficulties During Operation & Treatment Stage – From “Difficulties in contaminant identification may include the separation of inorganic and organic pollutants, microorganisms, Colloids, and others”
  • Use Of Reclaimed Waste Water For Irrigation Can Have Risks – including contamination of the food chain, soil salinization and accumulation of chemicals + other risks (
  • Distance Of Centralized Water Treatment Plants To Farms Can Be Too Far – the distance from farms to centralized treatment plants can be too great … but, on site treatment can solve this eventually (
  • Future Of Water Reuse Is Dependent On Many Factors – “such as economic considerations, potential uses for reclaimed water, the stringency of wastewater discharge requirements and public policies for conservation and protection” (


Examples Of Water Recycling In The World

  • In total volume, China, Mexico and the United States are the countries with the largest quantity of wastewater reuse, but in the first two cases non-treated wastewater is involved, and for China the value reported is certainly underestimated. […] If the reuse per inhabitant is considered, Qatar, Israel and Kuwait are the countries highest ranked, while when reuse is considered as the percentage of the total water used, Kuwait, Israel and Singapore become the most important.
  • [Water reuse in Arab nations since 2011 has increased dramatically, whilst Europe is lagging in adoption of treated wastewater reuse]

– Blanca Elena Jiménez Cisneros, via


  • [Sydney, Australia has 14 water recycling plants alone, and there are many more across Australia and the world]



  • Singapore is leading the world’s technology for water recycling



  • … countries [and cities] such as Singapore and Namibia, towns in Texas and California [and Perth, are already drinking recycled effluent i.e. treated sewage water]



Water Recycling Stats & Facts

















How To Save Water At Work

How To Save Water At Work

Saving water at work is obviously highly dependent on the type of work it is, and how much control there is over implementing water saving strategies and actions in work processes and environments.

In this guide, we look at individual, as well as company wide solutions to saving water at work.

(Note – this guide contains general information only. Workplaces and workers should do their own due diligence and make their own decisions as to what the best practices are for industries, companies and workers)


Summary – Saving Water At Work

  • There are things individuals can do at do save water at work. For the regular worker – considering the food they eat and waste might be the biggest way. There is also direct and indirect ways water might be saved
  • On a wider spectrum – different industries and company workplaces are going to have different potentials for saving work compared to others. This is company specific, but, also depends on the different industries and work types across the sectors of agriculture, industry and the municipal sectors
  • There are both direct and indirect ways water might be saved on a company and industry wide level
  • Saving water at work will inevitably come with the additional questions of – does it affect profit? And, does it affect performance?


Saving Water At Work – As An Individual 

Food, & Food Waste

Food forms the biggest part of an individual’s daily water footprint.

This involves looking at the foods being eaten, and also reducing food waste.

Food has a water footprint to grow or produce, and some foods have higher water footprint than others.

Food substitution may be one way to save water – such as swapping a snack like a chocolate bar for a piece of fruit (like a banana), or soda for regular water.

Minimizing food waste (the food we pack and bring to work) is another way, by not throwing food out that we don’t want to eat at work. 


Indirect Water Use

Includes the products and services we use.

One example of how to save water could be to make sure you are using energy efficient power devices (for lighting, laptops, etc) – as electricity production has a water footprint.

Another example is saving printing paper where possible and using electronic files instead. Paper has a water footprint to produce, as does ink, and the printer’s operation itself.


Direct Water Use

In a regular office – it helps if toilet facilities like taps and toilets are fitted with water efficient fixtures (like ability to half flush, and timed taps).


Saving Water At Work – On A Company & Industry Wide Level

This is really something that is company and industry specific – so each company and industry would need their own assessment done, and water saving measures implemented.

Some of the major industries that use water are agriculture via irrigation, and power generation via thermal power plants and their cooling processes. There might be major potential in these industries in particular.

Just two examples of potentially saving water on an industry and company level are:

  • Industry – Agriculture – using more water efficient irrigation systems on farms, and monitoring and fixing leaks in these systems to minimize water loss
  • Company – Car Washing Business – wash vehicles with buckets of water instead of hoses

You can read more in these guides on potential ways to save water in the different sectors:









How To Save Water At School

How To Save Water At School

In this guide, we look at several ways that schools might be able to save water.

We’ve split it up into the categories of food and food waste, indirect water use, and direct water use.

(Note – this guide contains general information only. Schools, teaching staff, and parents should do their own due diligence and make their own decisions as to what the best practices are for schools, their students and workers)


Summary – Saving Water At School

  • How much water can be saved at schools is dependent on different factors
  • There are factors that teaching staff and students can directly influence themselves
  • But, there may also be external factors that prevent schools from saving as much water as they potentially could. For example, school financing budgets, and needing certain decisions to be made by upper management could be limiting factors
  • The ways schools can save water might be categorised in the areas of food and food waste, direct water use, and indirect water use
  • Another obvious solution is that schools can include it in their curriculum to start teaching students about water sustainability on an individual, and society wide level. Short of implementing water strategies at schools, students are then at least aware of how they might be able to do so in their own lives away from school (in consultation with their parents or guardians), and are aware of how water might be able to be better saved across society 


Food, & Food Waste

As individuals, perhaps the biggest way we can reduce our daily water footprint as individuals is with our relationship with food.

Schools may do this by:

  • Considering food

The foods we eat each have a water footprint – i.e. take different amounts of water to produce.

Teachers may start teaching students about the water footprint of different foods in the area.

They may also identify easy snack swaps that might save water – such as swapping a soda for regular water, or a chocolate bar for a banana or piece of fruit.

Obviously, important considerations that impact health, such as proper nutrition and dietary requirements, and allergies of individual students, should still be a priority over saving water in an individual’s food diet.

But, water footprint in foods is something that can have more awareness brought to it at a bare minimum.


  • Considering food waste

When food is wasted, there is an indirect wasted water footprint from the water required to grow or produce that food.

Throwing out food that we don’t want to eat, or allowing food to expire, are just two of the ways we waste food.

If less food is wasted, such as the food students bring to school, we save water as an indirect consequence.

This can start with smarter food purchasing decisions, and only buying and packing foods we think we will definitely eat.

Both parents and students have a role to play here with selecting foods that will definitely get eaten, and not be wasted.


Indirect Water Use

Indirect water use includes the water used at another stage of the product or service lifecycle separate to the stage we use it at.

One of the best examples of this is the electricity schools use for lighting and power.

There’s an indirect water footprint for both:

  • The type of energy source use to supply the electricity – each one has a different water efficiency. So, schools might choose to use an electricity supplier with a higher water efficiency rating
  • How much electricity is used – which can come down to things such as installing timers for lighting, and using energy efficient power fixtures and technology. One example is that burning a compact fluorescent bulb for the same amount of time [as an incandescent one] might save about 2,000 to 4,000 gallons of water per year


Direct Water Use

There’s several ways water is used at schools.

A few examples for students are drinking and washing taps, and also toilet facilities.

Schools may also have lawn areas and sporting fields that need irrigation and watering.

Installing water efficient fixtures and water efficient irrigation systems (and monitoring and fixing leaks) are two examples of ways to save water in these instances.






Cities & Countries With The Best Fresh Water Supplies & Resources (& Cleanest & Safest Drinking Water & Tap Water)

Cities & Countries With The Best Fresh Water Supplies & Resources (Drinking Water, Tap Water, & Other Fresh Water)

In this guide, we attempt to identify the cities and countries with the best fresh water supplies and resources.

We look at total amount of fresh water resources, how clean and safe tap and drinking water is, and other quantity and quality related factors for fresh water supplies in a given region or area.

(Note – this guide contain general information only, and not professional advice)


Summary – Cities & Countries With The Best Fresh Water Supplies & Resources

  • There’s a number of ways to define the ‘best’ water supplies, and determine what criteria they might be judged by
  • ‘Best’ involves a number of factors such as quantity of water (volume and capacity), quality of water (suitable for it’s potable or non potable end use … and free from pollution, contamination, and salinity), renewal of water (whether it renews naturally, and the renewal rate), and access to water (whether water can be accessed from a physical or economic perspective). Read more about global water issues in this guide
  • In terms of total volume of internal renewable fresh water resources, Brazil, the US, Canada and China are some of the countries with the most water
  • In terms of per capita renewable internal fresh water resources, Greenland, Iceland, Guyana, and Suriname are some of the countries with the most water
  • Some of the biggest surface water sources in the world are the African Great Lakes, Lake Baikal in Russia, the North American Great Lakes, and the Amazon River
  • 37 of the world’s biggest ground water aquifers are spread all over the world
  • Some of the countries with the cleanest and safest tap water includes the developed world, including but not limited to UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan
  • There’s about 187 countries world wide where tap water is deemed unsafe for tourists, but of those countries, some countries may have tap water that locals use. Places such as Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East might be deemed high-risk for tap water in general
  • Some of the countries with the most poorly managed water resources are in developing or underdeveloped countries. These countries also tend to be places where there is a lack of basic access to clean and safe drinking water, and sanitation and hygiene. But, regions or States/provinces in developed countries aren’t immune. Many regions of developed countries might face issues with water pollution or contamination. Cities like Cape Town also face water scarcity issues, and subsequent water problems.
  • Some of the most water stressed and water scarce countries now and heading into the future are located in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Some of the cities with the most sustainably managed water supplies in terms of efficiency, resiliency and quality are Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Berlin – just to name a few
  • What we can observe from the data, is that it’s mostly not accurate enough to look at water supplies on a country wide level. It’s more accurate to look at supplies on a city, town or region specific level, as each geographic location can have different water quantities, quality, access, etc. that are accessible to them, different quality water, and so on

*Note – A qualified expert is the only person who can give a professional opinion on whether a water sample shows safe results, or whether water is safe to drink, consume or use. Additionally, people should make the decision to consume or use water at their own risk, and after doing their own due diligence


Cities & Countries With The Most Fresh Water Resources & Supplies – Total Volume Of Renewable Fresh Water Resources

Renewable fresh water resources refer to resources that are renewed or refilled by ‘precipitation, groundwater recharge, and surface inflows’.

In terms of a long term average of available fresh water, in cubic kilometres, the countries with the highest volumes of fresh water supplies are (accurate as of the year 2011):

  • Brazil – 8,233
  • The United States – 3,069 
  • Canada – 2,850
  • China – 2,840
  • Colombia – 2,132
  • [European Union] – 2,057
  • Indonesia – 2,019
  • Peru – 1,913
  • India – 1,911
  • Congo – 1,283
  • Venezuela –  1,233
  • Bangladesh – 1,227
  • Myanmar – 1,168

Read more of the top countries in the resource in the Sources list.



According to

  • The freshwater in Brazil accounts for approximately 12% of the world’s fresh water resources


What should be noted though, is that just because a country has high volumes of fresh water resources, it doesn’t mean they don’t experience water scarcity issues. Water may be distributed unequally across the different States/provinces, and cities and towns across the country. Variables such as finances, how the water resources are managed, and so on, can all impact how much water a region within a country ultimately has access to for drinking and non drinking purposes.


Cities & Countries With The Most Fresh Water Resources & Supplies – Per Capita/Per Person

In terms of per capita renewable internal fresh water resources, in cubic metres, the countries with the highest water supplies are (data accurate as of 2014, and 2007 in the case of Greenland):

  • Greenland – 10,662,187 (as of 2007)
  • Iceland – 519,265
  • Guyana – 315,701
  • Suriname – 178,935
  • Bhutan – 108,476
  • Papua New Guinea – 100,796
  • Gabon – 87,058
  • Canada – 80,423
  • Solomon Islands – 76,140
  • Norway – 74,359
  • New Zealand – 72,510



Biggest Sources Of Surface Water In The World

Fresh water is naturally found in both surface water, and ground water.

In terms of surface water sources, some of the biggest in the world are:


  • [Of all the surface water in the world in lakes, swamps, and rivers, there is] 29% in the African Great Lakes, 22% in Lake Baikal in Russia, 21% in the North American Great Lakes, and 14% in other lakes. Swamps have most of the balance with only a small amount in rivers, most notably the Amazon River



  • [Of all the surface water in the world …] The American Great Lakes account for 21 percent, Lake Baikal in Russia holds about 20 percent … Lake Victoria, which spreads across the African countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, is the second largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area … Africa’s Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest freshwater lake, and holds the second largest volume of fresh water. It’s the longest lake, and extends across Burundi, Zambia, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo



  • Brazil – The Amazon Region in Brazil contains over 70% of the total fresh water in Brazil. 
  • Russia – Lake Baikal, the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, is located in Russia. Baikal holds up to approximately 1/5 of fresh water in the world.
  • United States – Approximately 77% of the fresh water is surface water and 23% is underground … There are thousands of lakes in the US, including the world-famous Great Lakes.
  • China – Poyang Lake which is situated in Jiangxi Province is the largest freshwater lake in China



Largest Ground Water Sources In The World, & Where They Are Located

The resource in the sources list at the bottom of this guide has a graphic/map that shows where the 37 largest ground water sources are located across the world. They are spread out over many different countries.

Interestingly, writes:

  • Twenty-one of those aquifers have exceeded their sustainability “tipping points,” meaning they lose more water every year than is being naturally replenished through processes like rainfall or snow melt
  • Out of those 21, eight were found to be “overstressed,” meaning there is “nearly no natural replenishment” to restore water used by humans


Cities & Countries With The Best Drinking Water & Tap Water (Cleanest, Safest & Best Quality)


… tap water is safest in the developed world, including: UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan

Some of the major countries where you can drink tap water include:

  • The UK
  • Finland 
  • Greenland
  • Iceland
  • Canada
  • The US
  • Spain
  • Chile
  • Italy
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Japan
  • Poland

Refer to the resource in the sources list for the full list of safe tap water countries lists the top 9 countries with the cleanest tap water:

  • Denmark
  • Iceland
  • Greenland
  • Finland (According to the United Nations, Finland ranks amongst the best in the world for its tap water quality)
  • Colombia
  • Singapore
  • New Zealand
  • Sweden
  • Canada



  • Switzerland (because of good rain, melt from glaciers, and good water policy)
  • Canada (because of geography, and a regulated filtration process)
  • UK
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Germany
  • Scandinavia & Finland also mentions that:

  • Germany has one of the most ‘safe and most inspected’ water products in the world
  • [Although Greenland has one of the cleanest water sources in the world] the inhabitants of Greenland use mainly processed water from local lakes and rivers mentions that Voss in Norway has clean water – Voss is the bottled water you see in some places.


Factors That Can Affect Drinking Water & Tap Water Quality

There’s many factors that can impact water quality, but some of the major ones might be:

  • Levels of water pollution and contamination to surface water and ground water storage sources
  • Levels of salinity in fresh water storage sources
  • Whether the water is naturally filtered by geography such as soil, clay, rock, and surrounding environment
  • How the water is treated, purified and filtrated by man made technology (how many levels of filtration it goes through, and water is removed or added from the water)
  • How stringent quality control is i.e. testing and monitoring quality of the water
  • Whether the water is contaminated in the public supply pipes (via leaching)
  • Whether there is a government ministry or body dedicated to achieving and monitoring water goals
  • Whether there is a Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, or other Water Acts in place to specify guidelines for fresh water
  • Whether the water in a region has received an international ISO water quality certificate has this to say about tap water quality:

  • The purity of tap water really comes down to two things – the source it originates from and the level of filtration it goes through before it gets to our taps
  • [Storage sources regularly being topped up with rain water and effective water treatment/filtration technology can both lead to clean tap water]


How To Find Out The Drinking Water Quality In A City

Type into Google – ‘drinking water quality in [insert your state or city name here]’

You should be able to find an official government water quality reporting site, a water quality index, and other relevant water quality resources and information.

If you rely on third party assessments of tap water or drinking water, such as non government online resources, it is at your own risk.

Always refer to the official assessment of the water quality from a government or similar professional body first, and also do your own due diligence before consuming or using water in any region in any country around the world.


Differences Between Online Information Relating To Tap Water Quality, & Government Information

There can often be differences in information about water quality between online resources, and official government resources.

Just one example of this is with Latvian tap water:

  • We found at least one unofficial online resource that mentioned Latvian tap water is clean and safe
  • BUT, an embassy for the republic of Latvia states ‘It is recommended not to drink water straight from the tap. The water should be boiled or filtered through a special water cleaner before drinking.’ (


Cities & Countries With The Worst (Potentially Unsafe) Drinking Water Or Tap Water

Tap water that is listed as dirty or unsafe may be unsafe for everyone, or it may just cause problems for tourists and visitors (whose bodies aren’t adapted to the water). Make sure you read the government’s tourism website or water quality websites for some clarification on this.



… there are 187 countries in the world where tap water is deemed unsafe or unpalatable for tourists. 

… places such as Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East are deemed high-risk

[Places where you can’t drink tap water include:]

  • Ukraine
  • Mexico
  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Turkey
  • Morocco
  • Chad
  • South Africa
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • China
  • Russia
  • Kazakhstan

Refer to the resource in the sources list for the full list of 187 countries


Per, parts of the following countries may have unsafe drinking water:

  • Pakistan
  • Turkey in some locations – specifically out of the major cities (where water pipes are poor quality)
  • Hungary (outside of the major cities) (also, ‘around 30% of the country’s public potable water has failed to meet EU requirements)
  • Serbia (outside the major cities)
  • Cambodia
  • Montenegro
  • Belarus
  • Ukraine
  • Bulgaria (18 out of 28 districts in the country were home to substandard levels of drinking water)
  • Venezuela
  • Mexico (around three-quarters of the population consume packaged water)
  • Paraguay
  • San Pedro de Atacama in Chile
  • Parts of Bhutan (only 44.3% of the Bhutanese water supply is safe for human consumption)
  • Peru
  • Parts of China
  • Parts of India
  • Parts of Jamaica
  • Cuba (majority of households in the country will customarily boil the tap water before drinking)


Per, it may be best to avoid the tap water in all or parts of the following countries:

  • Ukraine
  • The Bahamas
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Fiji
  • Mexico
  • Russia
  • Cuba
  • Puerto Rico
  • Taiwan
  • India
  • Costa Rica
  • Argentina
  • Morocco
  • Thailand
  • UAE
  • Peru
  • Egypt
  • The Maldives
  • Belize
  • Kenya
  • Panama
  • Nicaragua (only 59 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water)
  • Dominican Republic
  • Moldova


In countries with potentially unsafe tap water, tourists may stick to consuming only bottled water that is marked safe to drink.

Locals in some of these regions may boil their water, use purification tablets, and/or purify it with a water purifier, or may rely on special deliveries from water trucks.


Countries & Cities With Clean Fresh Water Storage Sources 

Before water is extracted, treated and delivered via taps to homes and buildings, it sits naturally in storage sources such as ground water and surface water.

Some of the countries with the cleanest water storage sources and natural water bodies (separate to the end product of tap water) are:

  • Chile (Puerto Williams reportedly has the cleanest water in the world, and some very clean water is also found in Torres del Paine)
  • Canada (specifically, Springwater near Toronto … achieved by unique mountain ecosystem around the city that makes water decontaminated flowing through several layers of soil, clay and sand)
  • Denmark
  • Austria (has the Austrian Water Pact in place)
  • Iceland (has layers of volcanic sediment through which the water pours to the surface perfectly filtered … and doesn’t need additional chemical treatments)
  • Switzerland



From, some of the purest and cleanest water bodies and sources in the world are:

  • Alaska, US
  • Crater Lake, US
  • Elmvale, Canada
  • Lake Malawi, East Africa
  • Gold Mines, South Africa
  • Puerto Williams, Chile
  • Yotei Mountain, Japan
  • Mount Emei, China
  • River Thames, England (regarded as the cleanest river in the world that flows through a major city)
  • Caragh River, Ireland
  • Tara River, Montenegro
  • Blue Lake, New Zealand
  • Yarra Ranges, Australia
  • Lake Vostok, Antarctica


Countries & Cities With The Most Poorly Managed Water Supplies

When assessing accessibility, availability and quality of drinking water, these countries have the most poorly managed water:

  • Uganda
  • Ethiopia
  • Nigeria (although, it’s fast improving)
  • Cambodia
  • Nepal (quality of water issues)
  • Ghana (access to water issues)
  • Bhutan (quality of water issues)
  • Pakistan (quality of water issues)
  • Congo (access to water issues)
  • Mexico (quality of water issues)



Cities & Countries That Might Manage Their Water Resources Most Sustainably (Resiliency, Efficiency and Quality)

The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Water Index list the cities that rank highest in terms of how sustainably they manage and maintain water, but also against their natural risk and vulnerability across three pillars of water sustainability – resiliency, efficiency and quality. 

The top 30 cities overall are:

  • Rotterdam – 85.5%
  • Copenhagen – 85.4%
  • Amsterdam – 83.9%
  • Berlin – 82.9%
  • Brussels – 79.8% 
  • Toronto – 79.6%
  • Frankfurt – 78.2%
  • Sydney – 77.1%
  • Birmingham – 76.4%
  • Manchester – 76%
  • Melbourne – 75.9%
  • Paris – 75.4%
  • Washington – 74.6%
  • New York – 72.9%
  • Houston – 72.6%
  • Boston – 72.2%
  • Philadelphia – 71.8%
  • Dallas – 71.3%
  • Madrid – 71%
  • Chicago – 70.9%
  • London – 70.4%
  • Singapore – 69.9%
  • Seoul – 69.5%
  • San Francisco – 67.6%
  • Tokyo – 66.9%
  • Istanbul – 66.9% 
  • Los Angeles – 66.8% 
  • Rome – 65.3%
  • Moscow – 62.8%
  • Hong Kong – 62.2%

… cities in North America tend to outperform other world cities when it comes to water quality, [but] U.S. cities are more exposed to natural risks than peers in Europe [and tend to rank worse in resiliency]

View the full list of rankings at the resource link in the sources list below

You can sort cities into the three above mentioned categories


Countries With Good Recycled Water & Waste Water Standards

  • Denmark (especially strictly observes the treatment of industrial waste water)
  • Germany (levels of waste water treatment is very high in specific parts of Germany)
  • Greenland (to treat waste water here, a special permit issued by the government must be issued)



Australia and the US have extensive regulations and guidelines for recycled water, and, Singapore is a world leader in water recycling technology


Other Resources On Fresh Water Quality






4. Miaschi, John. “Which Country Has the Most Fresh Water?” WorldAtlas, Sept. 24, 2018,

















The Different Sources Of Fresh Water (Natural & Man Made)

The Different Sources Of Fresh Water (Natural & Man Made)

The following is a short list of the different sources of fresh water, and a description of each.


Surface Water

Includes sources such as lakes, rivers, dams, and so on. Dams are a man made surface water source.

They renew when rain water falls directly into them, or when catchment areas funnel water into them.



Aquifers found underground

They renew naturally via rain water water percolating and infiltrating through the rocks and soil from Earth’s surface, and to a lesser extent from surrounding surface water sources. They can also be recharged artificially through ground water replenishment schemes (e.g. injecting or filtering treated waste water directly into the aquifer)

They typically take 5 years or more to see a meaningful change in water levels i.e. their recharge rate can be slow.



Desalination (removal of total dissolved solids, and water pollutants and contaminants) involves the generation of fresh water from generally inadequate quality water (for drinking or non potable uses), such as sea water, and brackish water.

There’s various types of desalination, and there’s many desalination plants all around the world. 

Read more about the pros and cons of water desalination in this guide


Water From Air

Water can be extracted or drawn from the air via a number of methods.

One way that an atmospheric water generator does this for example is via refrigeration cycles that cool the air to below the dew point, the point at which condensation will form. The end result is potable water.


Water Recycling & Re-Use 

Not technically a water source, but, it is a way to supply and use water that has already been used. 

Water recycling and re-use involves re-using water either with or without treatment for contamination/water pollution.

A few examples of are re-using waste water from industry, or re-using agricultural run-off water.

Read more about the pros and cons of water recycling in this guide


Natural vs Man Made Fresh Water 

Natural sources are naturally formed, and are usually (but not always) recharged and renewed via the hydrological cycle (which starts with rainfall).

Man made sources are constructed by humans, and/or are renewed and recharged by humans (via human made technology)

Some sources such as ground water are naturally formed, but can be recharged via human processes such as artificial ground water replenishment.


Renewal Of Freshwater Sources vs Generating Fresh Water

Some water sources rely on renewal of their supplies (such as surface water and ground water), whilst others can generate a certain amount of fresh water per month of annually (such as desalination).


What Are The Main Sources Of Water?

It depends on the country.

Even different cities, towns and regions within a country can each have different main sources of water that they use for both drinking water, and non potable water.


What Is The Main Source Of Water In The US? indicates that most of the public supply tap water in the US comes from surface water sources:

  • Surface water from freshwater sources (that is, from sources other than the ocean) accounts for more than 60 percent of the water delivered to American homes
  • Nearly 40 percent of Americans rely on groundwater, pumped to the earth’s surface, for drinking water. For some folks in rural areas, it’s their only freshwater source indicates that different cities and States within the US get their drinking water from different types of sources such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, aquifers, aqueducts, and so on.


What Is The Main Source Of Water In The UK?

  • About one third of tap water in England and Wales comes from underground sources (aquifers), in Northern Ireland and Scotland this figure is 6% and 3%, respectively. The rest comes from reservoirs, lakes, and rivers.
  • Namely, surface water in the UK accounts for 68% and mixed sources for 4% of the supply



What Is The Main Source Of Water In India?

India is one of the major ground water users in the world.

  • India [uses] 25% of all groundwater extracted globally, ahead of the US and China
  • Some 90% of rural India’s drinking water comes from groundwater and 75% of agriculture is groundwater-based. In urban India, 50% of the water supply is groundwater-based



What Is The Main Source Of Water In Australia?

Some estimates indicate one fifth to one third of the water used in Australia comes from ground water, but, majority comes from surface water.

Some cities such as Perth rely heavily on desalination.









A List Of The Different Ways To Sustainably Use & Manage Water Across Society

A List Of The Different Ways To Sustainably Use & Manage Water 

The terms ‘saving water, ‘water conservation’ and ‘sustainable use of water’ are fairly general, and can be used to refer to a number of things.

In this guide, we specifically outline the different ways to sustainably use and manage water, and give examples of how they can be practically implemented.


Summary – Different Ways To Sustainable Use & Manage Water Across Society

Saving and conserving water are both part of the bigger picture of sustainably managing and using water i.e. making sure there are adequate available fresh water resources to meet demand now and in the future.

Sustainably managing and using water can happen on a broader social level – at the national, State/province, and city/town levels.

It can also happen on the individual level.

Sustainably managing and using water involves managing water supply resources, but also direct and indirect water withdrawals and consumption in the three main sectors of agriculture (in particular irrigation), industry (in particular power generation) and municipal (in particular households and public service).

We’ve already put together a few guides which outline sustainable management and use of water on a broader scale:

Below, we have listed some of the different individual ways that water can be sustainably used and managed:

  • Water Efficiency
  • Reducing Or Eliminating Water Leaks & Losses
  • Reducing Direct Water Consumption
  • Reducing Indirect Water Consumption
  • Managing Water Withdrawals
  • Reducing Water Waste
  • Water Recycling & Re-Use
  • Reducing Water Pollution & Contamination
  • Treating & Purifying Inadequate Quality Water
  • Generating Fresh Water (e.g. from water desalination), Harvesting Fresh Water & Increasing Capacity
  • Substituting Fresh Water For An Alternative


Water Efficiency

Getting the same production for a lesser amount of water, or getting more production for the same amount of water.


  • Using a water efficient irrigation system, or an alternative irrigation systems that works with timers, sensors, a drip system, etc. The effect is growing the same amount of crops with less water because the water is being applied more effectively
  • Modern water efficient household appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, shower heads, taps, and so on, that do the same function with less water. The effect might be doing a full load of dishes with less water in the case of a dish washer


Reducing Water Leaks & Loss 

Fixing water leaks and points of water loss from a system or item.


  • Fixing public supply water pipes that burst, and leak or lose water
  • Fixing leaky taps, pipes, toilet, showers, and hoses/sprinklers at the household level
  • Fixing a leaky irrigation system on a farm, or a leaky sprinkler used in public services to water lawns, parks, reserves, sports pitches, etc.


Reducing Total Direct Water Consumption

Involves reducing water that is used directly by an individual or organisation at a specific stage.


  • Using less water at the manufacture stage of a product life cycle i.e. after supplied materials have been extracted, processed and shipped to the manufacturer
  • Using less water at the household level for bathing, cooking, cleaning, etc. i.e. used directly by an individual


Reducing Total Indirect Water Consumption

Involves reducing the water that is used indirectly by an individual or organisation.


  • People can decrease the water footprint of the food they eat (water is used indirectly by people when food is grown or produced on a farm). 
  • People can decrease the water footprint of the electricity they use by using a different energy source like natural gas or renewables over coal, or by installing energy efficient lights in their house (water is used indirectly by people when electricity is generated with different energy sources like coal, natural gas, and so on at a power plant)


Managing Or Restricting Water Withdrawals

Water withdrawal is different to water consumption. Withdrawals involve the total amount of water withdrawn from a water source (that may even be returned to that source), whereas water consumption involves the % of water that is permanently removed or lost from it’s source.

Managing water withdrawals involves restricting or controlling the amount of water withdrawn from different water sources, and is essentially a way of managing demand on those water sources. We saw this when Cape Town imposed water restrictions during it’s drought and water shortage

It can be done with water restriction schemes, water policies, regulations and so on. Managing withdrawals is especially done if water supplies are low, or renewal rates are low (in dams, lakes, rivers, etc).


Reducing Water Waste 

Water waste can be a broad term.

Involves not purposely wasting water (directly or indirectly) when it could otherwise be used for something else.


  • Not wasting or throwing out the food we buy (food often has a water footprint from irrigated water used to produce it – when we waste food, we indirectly waste the water used to produce it, such as irrigation)
  • Buying a car second hand, or waiting longer to buy a new car where possible (as cars use water to manufacture)
  • Not running a dishwasher or washing machine until they have a full load (and not a half or partial load)
  • Substituting, or using alternate materials, products and services that have a smaller water footprint e.g. in packaging, suppliers and manufacturers might use materials that consume less water to make


Water Recycling and Re-use

Involve the use of water, and then re-use of water (with, or without treatment beforehand) – it’s circular process.

Recycling water allows the same water to be used instead of new water, which reduced to total amount of new water withdrawn and consumed over time.

Read more about the pros and cons of water recycling in this guide


Reducing Water Pollution and Contamination

When water is polluted or contaminated via agriculture, industry etc. – this reduces the total amount of adequate quality water available to be withdrawn or consumed again.

So, reducing water pollution and contamination increases or keeps the same amount of available fresh water supplies to use instead of reducing them.


Treating & Purifying Water

Water needs to be of adequate quality to drink or use.

Treating and purifying water allows already contaminated or polluted water to potentially be used if it passes quality tests and regulations.


Generating Fresh Water, Harvesting Fresh Water, & Increasing Capacity

Fresh water can be newly generated or harvested, or existing fresh water capacity can be increased.

This allows the total volume of available fresh water to increase and gives more margin for error from water risk events.


  • Desalination (from brackish, or salt water)
  • Rain Water Harvesting
  • Building an additional dam (to increase supply capacity(
  • Modifying a water catchment area so water filters more effectively into lakes, rivers, and percolates into ground water
  • Ground water replenishment schemes


Substituting Fresh Water For An Alternative

Where fresh water is currently used for one thing, an alternative might be able to be used.


  • Dry CO2 cleaning (vs the alternative of wet water cleaning)
  • Consider the merit of using closed loop cooling towers and cooling systems, and salt water, at thermal power plants. Read more potential solutions in this guide







Solutions To Improve Water Quality Related Problems

Solutions To Improve Water Quality Related Problems

Water quantity and water quality are the two main categories of global water problems.

This is a very short guide outlining potential solutions to global water quality related problems.


Summary – Water Quality Related Problems, & Solutions

  • For water to be of adequate quality, it needs to be in an adequate condition for it’s end use 
  • Usually, this refers to water pollution and contamination, which changes the quality/condition of the water. Water can be polluted and contaminated in a number of ways. Contamination can also include fresh water becoming saline if it’s cross contaminated with sea water, and, ground water can become saline in a number ways.
  • But, ocean salt water just by it’s nature is not of adequate quality to be drinking water unless it undergoes the desalination process
  • Potable water (drinking water) usually needs to meet standards set in legislation. The Safe Drinking Water Act is one example 
  • Non potable water, such as water used to irrigate agricultural crops, might only need to pass independent water testing standards, but, may also need to meet national or State standards codified in regulations in some places
  • Treated waste water that is reused/recycled usually needs to meet regulations and guidelines in developed countries
  • Different countries around the world have different water quality laws, standards and requirements, and some countries may have far more significant water quality issues than others
  • Drinking water in developed countries is usually treated, tested and regulated at water treatment plants, and delivered to homes and buildings via public supply pipes
  • But, even developed countries like the United States may have water contamination queries over their supply pipes e.g. leaching of chemicals or compounds into the drinking water supply
  • Developing or underdeveloped regions may drink poor quality or contaminated water, and this leads to a range of health and socio economic problems
  • The solutions to water quality problems usually differ between countries, and also between low and high, and developed and developing countries. Every country, region and city or town needs it’s own custom solutions and long term strategy for adequate quality water, as water issues are localized


Solutions To Improve Water Quality Related Problems

Solutions to water quality problems might involve:

  • Better accountability for, and tracking of the biggest water polluters and contaminators in each local area
  • Preventing water pollution and contamination at it’s source before bodies of water are degraded
  • Cleaning up polluted and contaminated bodies of water
  • Prevent fresh water sources from being cross contaminated with salt water, and address factors that lead to fresh water sources turning saline
  • Having codified legislation, regulations and standards/guidelines in place for quality of both potable and non potable water 
  • Treating and purifying water as required so it becomes adequate quality for it’s end use
  • Initial and ongoing testing of both non treated water and treated water, to make sure it meets adequate quality standards for it’s end use.
  • Make water testing results available to the public, and have regular updates on water quality from testing
  • Address any leaching and water contamination problems in public supply pipes (i.e. that they are free from heavy metals and other compounds that can leach into the water)
  • Better and more effective agreements to preserve water quality where States and regions share fresh water sources, or where a State relies on external fresh water sources


We’ve put together several guides with further information on some water quality related topics:




Solutions To Water Scarcity, Water Stress, Water Shortages, & Other ‘Water Quantity’ Related Problems

Solutions To Water Scarcity, Water Stress, & Other 'Water Quantity' Related Problems

Water scarcity and high water stress are ‘water quantity’ related global (fresh) water problems.

There are general solutions to these problems, whilst other solutions are far more specific to a local region or city (as different regions and cities around the world have different natural conditions/climates, and water supply related variables to deal with).

Solutions can also be implemented across many levels, including but not limited to the global, national, State, city, sector, and individual levels.

In this guide, we outline a range of these solutions, and also include examples of what cities are already doing or have done to address their own water stress and scarcity problems.


Summary – Solutions To Water Scarcity & Other ‘Lack Of Fresh Water’ Related Problems

  • Different States, regions and cities within a country deal with different variables and factors that impact their water supplies and resources
  • With this in mind, solutions and strategies for addressing water scarcity and high water stress (in both the short term and long term) will need to be custom to the water situation in a specific region, or city within a country, at a specific time period. Solutions and strategies should also take into account socio-economic consequences and trade offs
  • One of the most common and effective solutions to addressing water scarcity and high water stress is managing/preserving water supplies via water restrictions – which essentially preserves water resources when they get to a certain level that is deemed low
  • When financing and the right conditions are available, modern technology like desalination can also be effective in creating freshwater from salt water. Although, desalination does have it’s own set of pros and cons, and energy efficient desalination (perhaps powered by renewables) will be required long term. Waste water treatment, water recycling/re-use, storm water capture and re-use, and rain water harvesting are becoming more common too (although, passing and meeting regulations to make sure treated and re-used water is safe and clean can be a barrier)
  • Cities and towns will have to continue to adapt to their local climate and local conditions into the future, as climates and conditions change throughout time
  • Different regions around the world have different capacities to deal with their fresh water situation – it can depend on factors like level of income, and competence of governments and institutions in charge of making decisions about water management
  • Once example of a water scarce city who addressed at least the security of their drinking water resources was Perth, Western Australia. They now rely mostly on desalination and ground water to provide their drinking water. Some experts also say that Perth has potential to further utilize waste water recycling in the future

*Other relevant notes to consider about water scarcity and water stress:


Some Of The Most Effective Or Common Solutions

It depends on the city in question, but, some of the more common major solutions for cities around the world to address water stress and scarcity have been:

  • Better and more accurate tools that allow governments, farmers, and businesses to measure and track water usage, as well as indicators, stressors and triggers of water risk. Also, better data analysis that allows the short and long term sustainable management of fresh water resources, as well as estimating future forecasting for factors like demand, population growth, economic growth and so on
  • Restricting, rationing and controlling water withdrawals to protect baseline water levels, or so that withdrawals don’t outpace renewal rates
  • Increasing water capacity/volume e.g. building a new dam
  • Increasing water efficiency, and effectiveness of water use in the major water using sectors and activities – agriculture (irrigation in particular), industry (energy generation in particular), and household
  • Adapting to the local climate – if it’s a hot (high surface temperature) and dry (low or variable rainfall) climate for example, or if it has a strong frequency and intensity of natural events like droughts that impact rainfall. Cities and towns can get around this by using climate independent technology like desalination, waste/grey/storm water treatment and recycling, and so on (options that don’t depend on rain, aren’t affected by droughts, and other climate related factors) 
  • Diversifying to more than one source or type of water supply source – to diversify risk, and gain the benefits of different types of water supplies
  • In the long term – considering ways to decouple population growth and economic growth from an increase in water use/water withdrawals

Note though that sustainable water supply management strategies are an ongoing thing, and constant effort must be maintained to ensure potable and non potable fresh water supplies into the long term future.


A List Of Other General Solutions

  • Have water sources that are independent of rainfall, the climate and natural variability, and natural events (like droughts) – for example, desalination is independent of rainfall and natural factors. This protects against climate change, natural variability, and other factors that can lead to inconsistent or inadequate water supplies
  • Don’t rely on just one water source, or just one type of water source – diversify to several water sources, or several different types of water sources (e.g. surface water sources, ground water sources, desalination, replenishment schemes (for aquifers), waste water treatment and re-use, water recycling plants, rain water harvesting, generating water from the atmosphere/air with an atmospheric water generator, transboundary water transfers, and so on)
  • Sustainably manage withdrawals from both surface water and ground water sources, and especially be mindful of over withdrawing from ground water sources (this has been a problem in countries like India)
  • Consider existing demand vs supply capacity of the city, and look at water supply level trends – if they keep dropping year on year – something needs to be done to increase water supply capacity. Cities should provide year by year supply and withdrawal data, so the general public can assess adequacy of supplies themselves
  • Consider increasing total renewable fresh water supply capacity if required – per capita, and total volume. And, weigh this up against current demand, forecasted future demand, replenishment rates, and other relevant factors. One of the reasons parts of Australia with a dry climate aren’t running out of water, is that their per capita water supplies are higher than other places
  • Look for ways to generate new fresh water from salt water – from desalination for example
  • Look for ways to re-use and recycle water (with water recycling plants for example), and specifically treat and re-use waste water (with waste water treatment technology, and processes to re-use waste water where possible). Incentivize farmers and industry to treat and re-use waste water – at the moment, it’s cheaper and easier to simply use new water ( There’s big potential in waste water treatment and recycling as 80% of the world’s waste water is currently discharged into nature without treatment
  • Consider financing capability of the city into the future – what is a city’s budget? How can they afford to construct and maintain different parts of their water strategy?
  • Look for ways to use water more efficiently and sustainably in agriculture. One way is by upgrading irrigation systems like what has happened in California (see Another way is with drip irrigation and installing timers and sensors on irrigation systems. Flood irrigation uses more water than necessary right now (
  • Look for ways to use water more efficiently and sustainably in industry (by looking into dry cooling for example for thermo electric power plants for example, or CO2 cleaning in factories and manufacturing spaces as opposed to water cleaning). Water intensive wet cooling uses more water than necessary right now (
  • Look for ways to use water more efficiently and sustainably in the municipal and household sectors (one big area people might save water is through wasting less food as food has a large water footprint for individuals. But, we may also reduce water loss through public supply pipes by upgrading and maintaining them, or by using pipe leak detection and alarm sensors and software). Flood irrigation and water intensive wet cooling use more water than necessary right now (
  • In addition to efficiency, we can look to use water in the most effective ways – consider what uses of water provide the best results and returns
  • Look for ways to use water most efficiently and sustainably as individuals and generally across society
  • Maintain and upgrade water infrastructure where required – treatment plants, pipes, sewer systems, and so on [broken, inadequate and leaky infrastructure leads to water issues]
  • Consider the benefits of investing in water saving, water conserving and water efficient technology, systems and equipment (in agriculture and industry in particular) 
  • Look for ways to minimise water leaks, loss and waste across all areas of society – can involve identifying where we leak, lose and waste the most water, implementing detection processes, and implementing new technology or equipment that minimises it. In this guide, we outline some of the ways that we lose and waste water in society – so, we could look to address these areas
  • Address water pollution and contamination, and increase water quality – degraded water quality reduces the amount of available water. So, reducing pollution and contamination, and treating water that can be brought back to an adequate condition to be used or consumed, increases the amount of available water
  • Reduce the frequency of cross contamination of fresh water sources from salt water (Miami is an example of where this happened). Address contamination when it happens
  • Have emergency plans in place specifically for natural events and disasters like droughts, floods, and hurricanes – all of which can impact and disrupt water supplies
  • Consider the effectiveness of educating consumers on their consumption habits, lifestyles and the associated water footprints – as societies get more wealthy or the middle class grows, they may consume more water intensive products like fossil fuels and meat
  • Re-assess how water is priced across the whole of society, and consider if high water users should pay more (is water underpriced as a resource considering it faces scarcity concerns now and in the future?). When the price of receiving clean water is closer to its actual service cost, efficient water use will be incentivized, and there will be more incentive to invest in effective and efficient water use ( When pricing water, we should ensure individuals have basic drinking water and fresh water is affordable to all
  • Find more ways to capture/harvest rain water and use it
  • Find more ways for the different parts of society to holistically use, treat and re-use water – so, water use becomes more circular and involves more recycling as opposed to linear usage (e.g. consider how waste water and used water from hydro electric plants, sewage treatment plants, etc can be re-used – like for example, for energy)
  • Increase the social and cultural awareness about the true value of fresh water
  • Increase the awareness of the general public and governments about the different global water issues
  • Increase awareness about the utility of drinking recycled water
  • National, State and local water policy that is in line with short term and long term sustainable water resource management goals 
  • Better balance of these goals with environmental, economical and other priorities when it comes to water management and use (priorities can conflict – e.g. growth vs conservation and preservation)
  • Making use of backyard bores when public water infrastructure and supplies are inadequate
  • Using the natural environment and geography where possible to assist with aspect of in the fresh water water lifecycle – like for example, using fine sand for water filtering before injecting into ground water sources, and water storage outside of some cities (Perth is one example of this)
  • Consider water efficiency and conservation training and assistance for businesses and farmers. Also, consider how the biggest water users can plan, put into practice, track and forecast their own sustainable water usage strategies
  • Consider tiered pricing water withdrawal and consumption rates (essentially a progressive water tariff systems) for the highest users of fresh water in society (industries and agriculture being the main two)
  • Consider regulation of pooled common water resources to make sure everyone is responsibly withdrawing at a fair rate
  • Consider water meters installed for all those who are using the public water supply. Consider cutting off water supply when a max limit is exceeded
  • Consider penalties, incentives, credits and initiatives for inefficient and efficient water users
  • Consider tracking and monitoring annual water footprints for the biggest water users in society
  • Better address political and institutional conflicts of interest when it comes to national and regional water supply management
  • Consider plants in the area that are water hungry and might be sucking up the water supply from dams and other water sources – consider elimination of plant species that are a threat to water conservation and water supplies
  • Better balance urban and rural water needs (as each can be different) – for example, rural communities in California suffer more in regards to drought related water issues than urban areas
  • Ensure laws, regulations (such as the Clean Water Act) and testing related to water serve goals related to sustainability
  • Co-operation and management strategies between countries, States, cities and populations that share water resources
  • Co-operation and management strategies between countries, States, cities and populations that participate in interregional water transfers
  • More openness to increased research and development, and innovation in water infrastructure and water technology, and the short and long term benefits in doing so
  • Forming public private partnerships between business and governments for new water initiatives and projects where it seems smart to do so
  • Put more focus into maintaining healthy eco systems and natural infrastructure like plants, trees, vegetation, forests and so on – that are responsible for clean, plentiful water (through filtering pollutants, buffering against floods, and regulating water supply), replenishing groundwater, etc. One way to do this is by limiting deforestation, overgrazing, urbanization and so on
  • Placing more emphasis on, and putting more action into rebuilding and maintaining soil health across all types of land, but especially farm land, forests, open fields, and areas where water can filter, be retained and flow. Just one example of this is in farming, where by eliminating tillage and planting cover crops, farmers can build the soil’s carbon content and enable it to store more water. Soil, wetlands, and ecosystems play an important role in regulating water in different ways, and vice versa, water benefits them
  • Preserve forests for the sake of forest watersheds
  • Making water conservation a school subject in primary and secondary school
  • Work on transboundary, as well as international agreements in sustainably managing water – from ‘Around two-thirds of the world’s transboundary rivers do not have a cooperative management framework’
  • Transfer technology and working sustainable water practices from country to country, and from developed countries to developing countries
  • Consider what the maximum population number a city can support is, in terms of sustainably providing water for those people (based on increased demand of water), and manage populations in those areas as required
  • Consider what the maximum amount of economic growth a city can support is, in terms of sustainably providing water for economic activities
  • There could be potential to save water with new technologies such as GMOs in agriculture, and lab grown meat in food – just as two examples
  • Consider experimental ideas for water supply including shade balls, cloud seeding, harvesting water from the air, and towing icebergs from Antarctica (just to name a few)


There a list of specific water scarcity solutions across a range of areas in industry and society available in this resource (

Some of these solutions include:

  • Waterless dying technology in textile processing
  • Installation of soil moisture monitoring system to improve productivity
  • Resource efficient cleaner production in sugar factories
  • Balancing supply and demand through water metering
  • Public private partnerships for water system upgrades
  • Partnerships for cleaner textile production
  • Institutional reform in irrigation management
  • Reducing the cost of water re-use in the textile sector
  • Integrated irrigation modernisation projects
  • Basin based approach for groundwater management
  • Innovative financing arrangements
  • Active supply chain management in the textile industry
  • Effluent treatment and aquifer storage for agricultural use
  • Innovative PPP to improve water quality and availability
  • Corporate water efficiency targets in the mining industry
  • Reducing water use in fish and seafood processing
  • Zero liquid discharge and water reuse at a coal power plant
  • PPP to address regional water issues
  • Adapting to water scarcity at farm level
  • Community implemented aquifer recharge scheme
  • Institutional capacity building approach to managing industrial water use
  • Integrated water resource management in agriculture
  • Water management in copper and gold mines
  • Reuse of municipal effluent at a petrochemical complex
  • New water from fog catching
  • Reducing water and energy consumption in a chemical plant
  • Satellite based spatial data to aid in irrigation
  • Micro irrigation for food security
  • Creation of ‘new water’ from saline aquifer
  • High frequency intermittent drip irrigation
  • Water free milk powder factory
  • Maximising water reuse at a brewery
  • Social norms based customer engagement on water efficiency
  • Installation of drip irrigation systems
  • Emergency response to drought crisis
  • Air flow dyeing machines in textile production
  • Water use reduction strategy in food sector
  • Water reuse in the textile sector
  • Water reuse in the power and steel production sector
  • Water recycling in the food sector
  • Water recycling in paper production
  • Water reclamation for reuse and groundwater recharge
  • Water optimisation in the mining sector
  • Use of seawater in dual municipal water supply
  • Regional water conservation program
  • Wastewater reclamation and reuse network
  • Water loss management programs
  • Water efficiency audits of steam systems
  • Reducing water losses in a large distribution network
  • Water demand management strategy
  • Water demand management scheme
  • Reducing business risk through municipal leakage reduction
  • Water authority conservation program
  • Pressure management in municipalities
  • Wastewater reclamation to meet potable water demand
  • Pilot low cost irrigation scheduling
  • Managing evapotranspiration using quotas
  • Mine water recycling
  • Leakage reduction in primary schools
  • Leakage reduction in cities
  • Metering of non revenue water
  • Irrigation scheduling in grape farming
  • Managing water towards zero discharge
  • Irrigation optimisation
  • Irrigation network renewal
  • Irrigation management
  • Integrated watershed management
  • Improving water availability through wastewater treatment
  • Improved water management for sugar cane production
  • Improved water distribution management
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Groundwater conservation
  • Emergency water demand management
  • Domestic and business retrofit project
  • Direct dry cooling in the power sector
  • Behavioral change initiative
  • Aquifer recharge with stormwater
  • Advanced pressure management



  • Farmers are partnering with scientists and conservationists to recharge groundwater by inundating farm fields with wintertime floodwater, which then seeps through the soil to the aquifer below
  • … Another neglected water source can be found right below our feet. The world’s soils can hold eight times more water than all rivers combined, yet agricultural practices deplete soils, causing that critical water reservoir to shrink. But this can be fixed by rebuilding soil health.  
  • By eliminating tillage and planting cover crops, farmers can build the soil’s carbon content and enable it to store more water. Even a one percentage-point increase in soil organic carbon can increase water-holding capacity by some 18,000 gallons per acre. Yet farmers plant cover crops on less than 3% of US farmland and practice conservation agriculture on only about seven percent of cropland worldwide.


From (via PDF file):

  • Reducing water stress can be achieved by, for example, improving water-use efficiency and shifting economic activities to less water-consuming sectors


Some general solutions from about how the world can avoid a water crisis:

  • [Cities and businesses can use initial screening tools to identify future water risks and water crisis events, and these tools can be improved to better account for certain water risk factors, and also both chronic and acute water risks and triggering events such as low reservoirs, and basic hydrology, just to name a few]
  • [Places like urban LA that get far less rain fall than a place like Chennai are having less water scarcity problems as they invest in climate indepedent technology like storm water capture] – [elaborated on further at]
  • [A city’s water infrastructure must be maintained, as well as their water absorbing wetlands]
  • [Cities should have access to adequate water data for making water management decisions that impact the future, and to forecast future water demand]
  • [Cities should ensure good water management by eliminating corruption and political or institutional inadequacy, understanding their water cycle, understanding the requirements and differences of surface and ground water, and understanding how to incorporate all this into good water policy]
  • [Balance interests between competing groups who want to use water in different ways]
  • [Cities can undertake initial risk assessments to understand their water risks and vulnerabilities, and their comprehensive shocks and stressors, and can implement better water management strategies and processes as a result. Implementation and responses to these assessments should address multiple water risks and not just one]
  • [Cities can start to get very specific with their water management strategies, by defining answers to these types of questions …] When does a city start reducing demand? And to whom? What severity of water restrictions are residents willing to tolerate? When are new investments in supply and storage made?
  • [Cities need to have water management strategies that go beyond election cycles and focus on the long term]
  • The legal foundation establishing priority to water among different users, [and] the authority to enforce restrictions [needs to be clear]
  • [Ultimately, although managing water risk can be complex, it is something that needs constant focus, and not just sporadic efforts and investment. It will come down to integrated water resources management of all levels of society working together – national, regional, local and individual levels]
  • [Water scarcity and water stress may not ever go away or ever be fully solved – but, it can be much better managed than it currently is in many parts of the world]


Studying factors influencing catchment rainfall runoff (streamflows) processes for water storages in an area can help

Perth in Western Australia is an example of a place where this has happened:

  • ‘… the annual mean streamflows into Perth water storages have decreased significantly since 1975.
  • [Reduction in streamflow] can best be explained by changes in the catchment’s response to rainfall.
  • These changes could arise from the decoupling of groundwater and surface water, and changes in land use.
  • A detailed analysis of catchment rainfall runoff processes is needed to understand the causes of this decline.’




  • Some of the keys to managing water scarcity are … 
  • Increasing supplies of fresh water
  • Managing fresh water supplies adequately
  • Using water effectively and efficiently
  • Promoting water stewardship at the government and company levels with standards, footprinting, measuring, and so on
  • Protecting wetlands
  • And, adapting to the climate and the potential effects of climate change



  • [Diversification of water sources is a key, as well as relying on more climate independent sources]
  • [There’s many types of new water technology available like desalination, waste water recycling, generating water from the atmosphere, and so on … but, each one of these has pros and cons]
  • [Ultimately, we have to also combine the above things with conservation, and a mindset of valuing water more]



  • [Countries like Australia have shown it’s possible to decouple water consumption from economic growth, where] water consumption declined by 40% between 2001 and 2009 while the economy grew by more than 30%. 
  • [Governments need to stop investing in inefficient, costly, and expensive mega projects, and other solutions with major environmental or economic problems]
  • The most cost-effective way of decoupling water use from economic growth … is for governments to create holistic water management plans that take into account the entire water cycle: from source to distribution, economic use, treatment, recycling, reuse and return to the environment.
  • Developed countries can share cost effective solutions with developing or underdeveloped countries, and also information on hydrological transport modeling
  • Both developed and developing countries can increase protection and health of ecosystems that absorb, filter, and hold/store especially wetlands and riparian zones
  • Individuals can reduce water over consumption
  • Companies can focus on local, low-tech solutions such as solar power to distill water



  • Water has to be treated as a scarce resource, with a far stronger focus on managing demand. Integrated water resources management provides a broad framework for governments to align water use patterns with the needs and demands of different users, including the environment.



  • National and local governments must [address climate change]
  • Governments must also respond with [water] management and conservation practices that will help protect essential sustainable water resources …
  • [Governments can import agricultural items instead of growing them locally in an attempt to outsource their water footprint and consumption, and save water]


Again from

  • [Roughly 82% of waste water isn’t re-used in the Middle East & North Africa – there’s potential in this regard]
  • [Some water stressed countries though are making use of this option … ] Oman treats 100% of its collected wastewater and reuses 78% of it.  About 84% of all wastewater collected in Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) is treated to safe levels, but only 44% goes on to be reused.
  • [India has set up a national government ministry just to deal with water issues]. And, other solutions India could pursue are more efficient irrigation; conserving and restoring lakes, floodplains, and groundwater recharge areas; and collecting and storing rainwater.
  • Proper management of water is the key to all water security issues
  • Saudi Arabia sets water prices to incentivize conservation and has a program set up to set water conservation targets
  • Namibia … has been turning sewage water into drinking water for the past 50 years.
  • And Australia nearly halved domestic water use to avert its own Day Zero moment during the Millennium Drought. The country’s water-trading scheme, the largest in the world, allows for smart allocation of water among users in the face of variable supplies.
  • Rome utilized water rationing to conserve it’s water resources
  • 3 of the ways we can reduce water stress globally are via increased agricultural efficiency, investing in grey and green infrastructure, and treating, re-using and recycling water
  • Read more on these 3 options in this resource (



  • [In the MENA region] Just 18% of the area’s wastewater is currently reused, which means it is an untapped resource that could help boost water security. Oman is leading the way and already reuses 78% of the wastewater it collects
  • [Water policy needs to be tackled at the local level …] While it’s helpful for policymakers to understand and take action on water stress at the national level, water is an inherently local issue



  • Water re-use and specifically re-using greywater presents good benefits and opportunities for non potable applications (addressing regulatory standards helps with this), in food manufacturing where is can help reduce water and electricity usage, and in the oil and gas industry
  • Singapore, Arizona and the Carigali-PTTEPI Operating Company has had success with this
  • Singapore now boasts production of more than 100 million gallons a day of recycled water for industrial, commercial and domestic use
  • In the oil and gas industry … they were able to save 132,000 gallons of water and $52 million a year by reducing platform downtime with water reuse



  • India can manage its water risk with the help of reliable and robust data pertaining to rainfall, surface, and groundwater to develop strategies that strengthen resilience
  • In MENA (Middle East, & North Africa), the problem has more to do with recycling wastewater. Over 80 percent of MENA’s water is not reused, so if these countries create infrastructure around this idea, it could create a whole new source of clean water
  • Australia is a good example of how effective management can save a country on the brink of water stress. On the way to its own Day Zero during a millennium drought, the nation nearly halved its domestic water use. That said, the country still experiences severe drought issues exacerbated by climate change
  • Countries must look at individual regions and states within the whole country to come up with sustainable water management strategies
  • If the world doesn’t improve its agricultural efficiency, decrease its water use and recycle and reuse wastewater, water scarcity could be a permanent stress of the future



  • Libya constructed the Great Man Made River Project, which is designed water from the desert aquifers to more populated coastal regions, but, the construction time in uncertain, and the the aquifers non renewable
  • Jordan has had outside funding into advanced water infrastructure, decreasing water loss and conserving water
  • External groups have helped Djibouti manage water to rural areas, and prepare for disasters by improving weather monitoring systems, updating emergency plans and establishing early warning systems for both floods and droughts.



  • Jordan – teaching water conservation in schools, and restricts running water to 12-24 hours a week
  • Kuwait – uses desalination for 99% of fresh water 
  • Saudi Arabia – uses desalination, and prices water to incentivize conservation
  • Eritrea – uses desalination, and is trying to make desalination more eco friendly
  • Turkmenistan – opening a gigantic lake, but may have long term problems
  • Oman – treats waste water and reuses nearly 80% of it
  • Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia – importing water for Lesotho via a pipeline



  • Qatar – depends heavily on desalination



  • Beijing – water diversion projects, educational programmes, and price hikes for heavy business water users
  • Mexico City – could start recycling waste water, and upgrade pipe networks that are leading to water loss
  • London – heading towards hosepipe bans in the future
  • Tokyo – At least 750 private and public buildings in Tokyo have rainwater collection and utilisation systems, and, recent investment in the pipeline infrastructure aims also to reduce waste by leakage to only 3% in the near future



  • Some cities and places in India, such as Chennai, use water trucks to carry water into cities where water isn’t available


There are some lessons to be learnt about what can cause water shortages from the Cape Town water shortage event (in their case – it was a severe drought and lack of rain fall leading to critically low supplies in the city’s dams … i.e. they were reliant on rainfall and dams, and they had to resort to severe water restrictions to alleviate the situation in the short term)


Different industries are now implementing different water management and water saving measures as well


Key Indicators For A City’s Sustainable Water Management Strategy

Some of the key indicators a city might pay attention to in order to develop and maintain a sustainable water management strategy are:

Supply Indicators

  • Assess the available internal renewable fresh water resources in the form of surface water (lakes, rivers, dams etc), and ground water sources. Consider the total volume of these resources, as well as how much water there is per capita based on population numbers vs volume of water. These water resources must also be of adequate quality i.e. they can’t be polluted, contaminated or brackish, or, they must be treated and purified before use to meet Act/regulation guidelines (in the case of drinking water), or independent testing (in the case of water for agricultural irrigation)
  • Assess the ability to increase fresh water resource capacity or volume (one example is building an additional dam)
  • Assess the ability to generate fresh water on demand (with technology such as desalination for example)

Replenishment Indicators

  • Consider the rate at which fresh water sources are replenished from rain fall. Part of this may consider studying rainfall, evaporation, the hydrologic cycle, effectiveness of catchment areas (their response to rainfall), and inflows and stream flows. Note that ground water is usually replenished (via percolation of water from rainfall or surface water sources through spaces in the soil and rock profile) at much slower rates than surface water (ground water can take 5 years or more to see meaningful change). Also, consider year to year variability in rainfall, and events like droughts that can impact replenishment rates

Demand Indicators

  • Withdrawal & Consumption Rates – consider the rates at which water is both withdrawn and consumed from fresh water sources … and, compare this to the replenishment rate (look at rates, but also pure volume). Also, consider the major sectors and businesses that are withdrawing and consuming water, and consider usage regulations/policy, and increases in efficiency for major users. [*Note that water withdrawal and consumption are different things – withdrawal may involve re-use of the water that was withdrawn, or returning it to it’s original source. But, consumption means the water is permanently gone from it’s original water source and transferred elsewhere]

Re-Use & Recycling Indicators

  • Assess the ability to treat, re-use and recycle used water, and waste water (from industry, but also from storm water, run-off and rain fall)

Loss, Wastage & Leakage Indicators

  • Consider the rate at which water is lost, wasted or leaks from various stages of the water life cycle. Just as one example – leaks from public water supply pipes and other water infrastructure before it arrives for it’s end use is a common source of water leakage and loss.

It’s important cities and towns invest in and continue to maintain the full range of their water infrastructure that is responsible for extracting, treating, transporting, and delivering fresh water to it’s end use. Water may then be treated and re-used again after use. Water may even be introduced to this lifecycle via additional rainwater harvesting, utilizing storm water and run-off, and so on.


Solutions On Different Levels

Solutions to water scarcity and water stress can occur on different levels.

These levels might include:

  • Global – addressing climate change & it’s potential impact on the hydrologic cycle (rainfall, evaporation, etc). Rainfall is responsible for stream flow or inflow into catchment areas and surface water sources, as well as filtering into groundwater sources.
  • National – national water policy, national water management, and budgets/investment allocated to water infrastructure
  • State – State water policy, State water management, and budgets/investment allocated to water infrastructure
  • City – every city has different water supply variables and factors to consider. Just some examples are their total fresh water capacity, demand rate (withdrawal and consumption rates), ability to increase capacity or create new fresh water, population growth, local climate, economic growth, water loss and waste rates, efficiency rates across the major water users, water pollution rates, and so on
  • Sector – there are three main sectors responsible for water withdrawals. Those are agriculture (irrigation being a big one), industry (wet cooling in thermo-electric power plants being a big one), and municipal (households and public supply). Better water efficiency in agriculture and industry in particular (which take up 70% and 20% respectively globally of the withdrawals) can help as part of the solution
  • Individual – Individuals have a water footprint. Food makes up a significant majority of our water footprint. Not wasting food can help minimise our food water footprint. But, apart from foods, we can also be mindful of how water intensive the products we buy are to make and operate, and also be mindful of water use in the homes (cooking, cleaning, outdoors/backyard). Consumerism in general and consumption patterns and habits have an impact on the water footprint of society
  • Shared – some cities share water resources with other cities. A shared water resources management plan helps here.
  • External – some cities and States rely in part on transboundary water transfers, and external water resources. Decreasing reliance on these resources and increasing reliance on internal resources can help here.

Each region throughout the world might have a different micro climate, average temperature, average rainfall, yearly and seasonal variability, or even be hit by different events like droughts – all of these things can impact water supply.

Beyond that – developed countries are usually going to have far more available finances to fund water supply projects and technology than developing or poor countries (which is part of the reason there are many people still without basic drinking water and sanitation water supply). 

Some governments and water management organisations in some countries and states are going to be far more competent and plan better for the short and long term than others too.

… what all these factors and other factors indicate, are, that every area or region within a country where water is used by people needs it’s own localized and individual approach and solutions for addressing their water supply and ensuring water security in a sustainable way. And, this is because each region in the world faces it’s own water supply variables and challenges/problems.


Potential Challenges & Problems Associated With Some Water Scarcity & Stress Solutions

There can be both short term and long problems with some of the solutions for water stress and scarcity.

One of the most common problems is cost, but others can be practical, logistical, environmental, social, institutional, and so on.

Those problems can include:

  • Desalination – desalination can have it’s own set of pros and cons
  • Waste Water Recycling – it can often be far cheaper and quicker for industry to dump used waste water untreated and use new water, compared to treating waste water and re-using it. In addition, waste water treatment and recycling technology, and dedicated water recycling plants aren’t cheap. Furthermore, regulations for re-using waste water can sometimes be a barrier in terms of health and safety. outlines some of the problems with current sustainable water management solutions:

  • [Some solutions are hugely inefficient, costly, expensive to run and generally environmentally sustainable nor economically viable – such as mega projects, construction of wastewater treatment plants, reducing groundwater overdrafting, and so on] outlines:

  • Strict water regulations can impose barriers on treating, re-using and recycling waste and grey water outlines:

  • [Although there are advantages to waste water re-use] The disadvantages of wastewater re-use are it requires high knowledge, requires financial investments, requires high level of trust between industries, and requires modification of current operations both for direct reuse and treat-and-reuse.





























27. Downloads/642-progress-on-level-of-water-stress-2018.pdf, ‘Progress On Level Of Water Stress’ (from









Most Water Scarce & Water Stressed Countries & Cities In The World (Now, & Forecast Into The Future)

Most Water Scarce & Water Stressed Countries & Cities In The World (Now, & Forecast Into The Future)

Water scarcity and water stress are problems generally related to inadequate internal fresh water resources to meet demand (withdrawal) on those resources.

Different countries, cities and regions experience different levels of water stress, and some experience water scarcity.

In this guide, we look at the places that have the worst problems right now, and also what the forecast might be for the future.


Summary – Countries & Cities With The Worst Water Stress & Water Scarcity Problems

  • There is a difference between water stress and water scarcity
  • Water stress is a sliding scale – regions can have anywhere between very low to extreme levels of water stress 
  • Water scarcity on the other hand refers to the point where high levels of water stress are reached, and there is essentially not enough renewable internal fresh water resources to meet demand (withdrawal rates) on those resources
  • As of 2020, around 17 countries in the world, containing roughly one quarter of the world’s population [1.7 billion people], are experiencing ‘extremely high’ levels of water stress (
  • 12 out of those 17 countries are found in The Middle East and North Africa, which are also the most water stressed regions on Earth (
  • India is one of the major water stressed countries in the world
  • Around 44 countries, containing roughly one third of the world’s population, are experiencing ‘high’ levels of water stress (
  • Several organisations provide ‘water stress level’ rankings where the water stress levels for every region of every country in the world can be seen.
  • It’s possible for water stress levels to differ significantly between different regions or States within one country. So, the average water stress of an entire country is not a reliable indicator of the stress within a specific region (i.e. it’s possible to have water stressed regions or States within a country that doesn’t have high levels of water stressed on average/as an entire country)

A few other notes on water stress and scarcity:

  • It should be noted that there is a difference between potable fresh water for drinking, and non potable fresh water. Cities and countries can have secure drinking water resources, but may be facing non potable water stress and/or scarcity. So, this is something that needs to be clarified when dealing with water stress and scarcity
  • Something else that should be noted is that high levels of water stress and water scarcity aren’t always permanent – countries and cities can sometimes move to low water stress (and, away from water scarcity), when they undertake more sustainable fresh water management and strategy


What Is Water Stress, & What Is Water Scarcity?

Water stress refers to a set of water quantity related conditions that are slightly different than water scarcity. 

For example, water stress is a sliding scale ranging from very high water stress (usually characterized by high demand for limited internal fresh water resources) to very low water stress (usually characterized by demand on water resources making up a very small share of the total fresh water resources available).

Water scarcity on the other hand only refers to situations of extremely high water stress, and can lead to water shortage events like the one seen in Cape Town in recent times.

Read this guide which outlines the differences, similarities and definitions of each.


Most Water Stressed Countries & Cities In The World

As of 2020, the top 50 most water stressed countries in the world, according to WRI’s Aqueduct country rankings, are (higher values indicate more competition among users for available renewable water supplies in that country):

  1. Qatar 
  2. Lebanon 
  3. Israel 
  4. Iran
  5. Jordan
  6. Libya
  7. Kuwait
  8. Saudi Arabia
  9. Eritrea
  10. UAE
  11. San Marino
  12. Bahrain
  13. India
  14. Pakistan
  15. Oman
  16. Turkmenistan
  17. Botswana
  18. Chile
  19. Yemen
  20. Cyprus
  21. Andorra
  22. Belgium
  23. Morocco
  24. Mexico
  25. Uzbekistan
  26. Greece
  27. Afghanistan
  28. Spain
  29. Algeria
  30. Tunisia
  31. Syria
  32. Turkey
  33. Albania
  34. Armenia
  35. Burkina Faso
  36. Djibouti
  37. Namibia
  38. Kyrgyzstan
  39. Niger
  40. Nepal
  41. Portugal
  42. Iraq
  43. Egypt
  44. Italy
  45. Thailand
  46. Azerbaijan
  47. Sudan
  48. South Africa
  49. Luxembourg
  50. Australia

See the full rankings for water stressed countries here (

There’s also a set of 164 countries and an overall National Water Stress Rankings List, organised by different levels of water stress available here (


According to

  • Water stress is ever intensifying in regions such as China, India, and Sub-Saharan Africa, which contains the largest number of water stressed countries of any region with almost one fourth of the population living in a water stressed country.
  • The world’s most water stressed region is the Middle East with averages of 1,200 cubic metres of water per person.
  • In China, more than 538 million people are living in a water-stressed region.
  • Much of the water stressed population currently live in river basins where the usage of water resources greatly exceed the renewal of the water source.


Water Stress In The United States

On average, the United States has low to medium water stress, but it differs from state to state (

There are some states in the US experiencing medium, high and extremely high water stress.

You can view a map here of the different US states and their level of water stress here (


One forecast for the US in the future:

  • A study in the US from earlier this year, predicted that in just five decades, the central and southern Great Plains, the Southwest and central Rocky Mountain States, California, and areas in the South and the Midwest are likely to experience significant water shortages.



How Many People In The World Are Water Stressed?

  • More than one in every six people in the world is water stressed, meaning that they do not have sufficient access to potable [drinking] water.
  • Those that are water stressed make up 1.1 billion people in the world and are living in developing countries.
  • In 2006, about 700 million people in 43 countries were living below the 1,700 cubic metres of water per person, per year threshold.



Countries & Cities Experiencing Water Scarcity

Water scarcity can be measured and assessed in several different ways.

Using the Criticality ratio (from ‘… a country is said to be water scarce if annual withdrawals are between 20-40% of annual supply, and severely water scarce if they exceed 40%’.

There is a map available at this resource, which shows the regions in the different countries in the world that are experiencing different levels of water stress, and are withdrawing different amounts of their annual supply (

There’s also another map here, which is WRI’s Aqueduct tool (


As of 2020:

  • … around 17 countries in the world, containing roughly one quarter of the world’s population, are experiencing ‘extremely high’ levels of water stress
  • 12 out of those 17 countries are found in The Middle East and North Africa, which are also the most water stressed regions on Earth 
  • Around 44 countries, containing roughly one third of the world’s population, are experiencing ‘high’ levels of water stress 
  • [Specifically with India -] ‘India ranks 13th for overall water stress and has more than three times the population of the other 17 extremely highly stressed countries combined [and their surface water and ground water resources are overdrawn for irrigation in agriculture]’
  • [Even though the United States and South Africa are countries with low water stress, they have pockets of the country experiencing extreme water stress – such as the Western Cape, and New Mexico. So, this shows that regions of countries can experience water stress differently than other parts.]



Some of the individual cities that have recently experienced water scarcity and different categories of water shortages are:

  • Chennai, India
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Rome, Italy



How Many People In The World Currently Experience Water Scarcity?

  • … more than 1 billion people currently live in water-scarce regions [in the world]



  • One-third of the global population (2 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least 1 month of the year
  • Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round
  • Half of the world’s largest cities experience water scarcity



  • a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year



  • 32 countries are experiencing water stress of between 25 and 70 per cent; 22 countries are above 70 per cent and are considered to be seriously stressed; in 15 countries, this figure rises to above 100 per cent, and of these, four have water stress above 1,000 per cent.
  • The four countries are Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where the demand for water is largely being met by desalination

– (PDF report)


Trends In Water Stress Over The Last 20 Years

  • An analysis of trends in water stress for the past 20 years (1996–2016) shows that it has increased for most countries in the world.
  • In 26 countries, 15 of which are in Africa, water stress has more than doubled. The likely reasons for these increases are increased economic activities, growing populations and improved ways to measure water usage, along with effects of climatic changes
  • On the other hand, water scarcity has decreased for 44 countries, half of which are in Europe.
  • Reducing water stress can be achieved by, for example, improving water-use efficiency and shifting economic activities to less water-consuming sectors.

– (PDF report)


Countries & Cities Forecast To Experience High Water Stress Or Water Scarcity In The Future (Up To 2040)

Forecasting water stress and scarcity for the future is more of an estimate than a guarantee due to various factors.


According to

  • [climate models and socioeconomic scenarios] WRI scored and ranked future water stress in 167 countries—with water stress being a measure of competition and depletion of surface water …
  • … 33 countries face extremely high water stress in 2040
  • … Chile, Estonia, Namibia, and Botswana could face an especially significant increase in water stress by 2040
  • … Fourteen of the 33 likely most water stressed countries in 2040 are in the Middle East, including nine considered extremely highly stressed with a score of 5.0 out of 5.0: Bahrain, Kuwait, Palestine, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon
  • [Specific areas of the US and China] such as the southwestern U.S. and China’s Ningxia province, could see water stress increase by up to 40 to 70 percent

View the full resource including a ‘Water Stress By 2040’ map for all regions around the world, and water stress projection for 2010, 2020, 2030 and 2040 at

They list the top 33 water stressed countries by 2040 as:

  1. Bahrain
  2. Kuwait
  3. Qatar
  4. San Marino
  5. Singapore
  6. UAE
  7. Palestine
  8. Israel
  9. Saudi Arabia
  10. Oman
  11. Lebanon
  12. Kyrgyzstan
  13. Iran
  14. Jordan
  15. Libya
  16. Yemen
  17. Macedonia
  18. Azerbaijan
  19. Morocco
  20. Kazakhstan
  21. Iraq
  22. Armenia
  23. Pakistan
  24. Chile
  25. Syria
  26. Turkmenistan
  27. Turkey
  28. Greece
  29. Uzbekistan
  30. Algeria
  31. Afghanistan
  32. Spain
  33. Tunisia


These cities are most likely to run out of water in the future (unless action is taken):

  • Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Bangalore, India
  • Beijing, China
  • Cairo, Egypt
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • London, UK
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Miami, US



What Is The Future Trend For Water Scarcity & Water Stress?

  • Water Demand is expected to outstrip supply by 40% in 2030, if current trends continue [which could lead to stress and scarcity]
  • Scarcity can be expected to intensify with most forms of economic development, but, if correctly identified, many of its causes can be predicted, avoided or mitigated



How Many Total People Could Experience Water Stress In The Future?

  • Researchers at MIT say roughly half the world’s projected 9.7 billion people will live in water-stressed regions by 2050



How Many Total People Could Experience Water Scarcity In The Future?

  •  … as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025



More Stats & Facts On Water Stress & Water Scarcity Around The World

See these resources:

  • Water Facts About Water Scarcity (
  • Future Water Stats (
  • Downloads/642-progress-on-level-of-water-stress-2018.pdf, ‘Progress On Level Of Water Stress’ (from [Has some good data on water stress levels across the different regions of the world]






















20. Downloads/642-progress-on-level-of-water-stress-2018.pdf, ‘Progress On Level Of Water Stress’ (from

Biggest Global (Fresh) Water Issues & Problems, & Solutions

Biggest Global (Fresh) Water Issues & Problems, & Solutions

Global fresh water issues and problems generally fit into one of two broad categories.

In this guide, we identify these categories, and also the specific water problems associated with them.

We also look to identify potential short term and long term options and solutions to address them.


Summary – Biggest Global Water Issues & Problems, & Solutions

* Note – this guide also does not cover natural disasters that involve water, such as river floods. 


Biggest Global Water Issues & Problems – Quantity & Quality Of Water

1. Quantity Of Water

Read more about the causes and effects of quantity related water problems in this guide.

There’s many factors that can lead to water stress or water scarcity, but some of the main ones are:

  • A city or town not having a high natural volume or capacity of available fresh water resources 
  • A dry and/or hot climate (and increasing surface temperature and decreasing or variable rainfall levels) 
  • Natural events like droughts
  • Increasing demand placed on water resources – can be caused by factors such as population growth and increase in water required for economic activity
  • Lack of finances to invest in climate independent fresh water generation technology, such as desalination or water recycling
  • Poor or inadequate governmental or institutional management of freshwater resources

Some of the key factors that need to be taken into account when assessing water quantity related problems may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • The total volume (and capacity) of available internal fresh water resources (surface water, and ground water sources)
  • Demand on those resources – withdrawal and consumption rates
  • Renewal/replenishment rates (usually from hydrological cycle, taking into account rainfall, evaporation, inflow and stream flow rates into surface water and groundwater, percolation rates through soil and rock into ground water aquifers, and so on) of those resources compared to how quickly they are being depleted or emptied
  • Ability to increase resource capacity (like building a new dam for example)
  • Ability to generate fresh water (via desalination technology for example)
  • Ability to treat and re-use water, or to recycle waste water, storm water, and other types of water
  • The volume and capacity of available shared water resources
  • The volume and capacity of external/transboundary water resources

When there are limited available internal fresh water resources, or when the withdrawal or consumption rate (demand) is higher than the rate that those resources are being recharged/replenished, there is usually water quantity issues like high water stress, water scarcity and water shortages.

Read more about water quantity related issues like water availability, stress, scarcity, and shortage in this guide.

Different regions within a different countries can experience water scarcity and stress during different time periods.

Perth in Western Australia is an example of a city that has managed to address their water scarcity issues by securing drinking water in the short term. However, they are focussing on longer term sustainable strategies for non potable fresh water too (experts say waste water recycling could have potential to do this long term)

Cape Town in South Africa is an example of a city that experienced water scarcity and a water shortage event in recent years.


2. Quality Of Water

Quality of water refers to the condition of the water, and fresh water resources must be of adequate quality for the potable or non potable end use. 

Ocean water (salt water) for example is not of adequate quality to drink unless it’s treated with desalination.

Fresh water may become polluted or contaminated, or may become cross contaminated with salt water, and both of these things can make fresh water not suitable for drinking water or non potable uses.

Drinking water usually has to meet legislation or regulations (the Safe Drinking Water Act & Clean Water Act are examples), and/or water testing standards in developed countries.

Water that that is non potable, such as water used for irrigation to grow crops in agriculture for example might be tested for specific quality standards.

We’ve put together several guides with further information on some water quality related topics:


Solutions To Major Global Water Issues & Problems

1. Water Quantity

Read more about solutions to water quantity related problems in this guide.

There are many potential solutions for addressing water quantity related issues.

Some of the major ones may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Better and more accurate tools that allow governments, farmers, and businesses to measure and track water usage, as well as indicators, stressors and triggers of water risk. Also, better data analysis that allows the short and long term sustainable management of fresh water resources, as well as estimating future forecasting for factors like demand, population growth, economic growth and so on
  • Restricting, rationing and controlling water withdrawals to protect baseline water levels, or so that withdrawals don’t outpace renewal rates
  • Increasing water capacity/volume e.g. building a new dam
  • Increasing water efficiency, and effectiveness of water use in the major water using sectors and activities – agriculture (irrigation in particular), industry (energy generation in particular), and household
  • Adapting to the local climate – if it’s a hot (high surface temperature) and dry (low or variable rainfall) climate for example, or if it has a strong frequency and intensity of natural events like droughts that impact rainfall. Cities and towns can get around this by using climate independent technology like desalination, waste/grey/storm water treatment and recycling, and so on (options that don’t depend on rain, aren’t affected by droughts, and other climate related factors) 
  • Diversifying to more than one source or type of water supply source – to diversify risk, and gain the benefits of different types of water supplies
  • In the long term – considering ways to decouple population growth and economic growth from an increase in water use/water withdrawals

Solutions to water quantity issues can be addressed on the global, national (with national policy), State (with State policy), city, sector and individual levels. They may also be addressed in a shared way when cities share water resources for example.

Cities and towns may also look to secure both potable and non potable fresh water supplies for the short and long term.


2. Water Quality

Read more about solutions to water quality related problems in this guide.













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