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The Global Population by Water Security Levels

Most of the global population lives in countries with critical water security issues.

Water availability for a country's population can be influenced by various challenges, including declining freshwater, increasing demand due to population growth, inadequate infrastructure, and flawed water governance. When various factors combine, water security problems quickly become a reality.

In a recent report, the United Nations University assessed the water security of different countries around the world.


The study evaluates the water security of various countries through the analysis of ten different factors, including water quality, sanitation, availability, resource stability, and climate-related risks.

Each factor is given a score out of 10, with a nation’s overall water security score computed from the sum. The assignment of water security levels is based on overall scores:

75 and above are classified as “water secure”
65‒74 is classified as “moderately secure”
41‒64 indicates a country is “water insecure”
40 and below are considered “critically insecure”

Below is visualization created by visualcapitalist, that shows the global population by water security levels worldwide.

The Global Population by Water Security Levels

Water Security Levels by Nation

Water security remains a concern worldwide, but is particularly alarming in regions like Africa and the Middle East, where 13 of the 23 countries in the highly insecure category are detected.

In total, 113 countries are assessed water insecure, including the world’s two most populated, India and China. 

Pakistan and Ethiopia are among the largest by population of the additional 24 nations that are considered critically water insecure.

Water security problems are experienced by 72% of the world's population, with an additional 8% suffering from critical water insecurity. That includes 4.3 billion people living in the Asia-Pacific region, and an extra 1.3 billion people in Africa.

There are many of these countries facing challenges such as fast-growing populations and drought conditions faster than they can develop the infrastructure to handle them.

Only 12% of the global population lives in a water-secure country, including most Western countries, with Norway at the top with a score of 90. Approximately 8% of the global population lives in countries with moderate security, such as Brazil and Russia.

However, water availability in these more secure nations is not ideal either. For instance, American states reliant on the Colorado River for drinking and irrigation water are experiencing constant drought conditions and determining consumption, with further problem on the horizon.

Achieving water security

As countries worldwide experience growing water-related challenges, governments and international agencies have been cooperating to develop sustainable water management practices. As a matter of fact, the UN considers clean water and sanitation among its Sustainable Development Goals.

Many countries have already begun to execute these approaches. For instance, cities in California have started recycling wastewater and capturing stormwater to deal with water scarcity. In farming-dependent regions, smart agriculture can also reduce the demand for freshwater.

Such actions to enhance water irrigation methods, improve water infrastructure, and preserve the diminishing freshwater reserves may assist enhance countries out of water insecurity and assist to save this treasured resource for later generations.

If you’d like to learn more about water resources and their conservation the following books may be of interest:

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