Some 52 percent of the world’s projected 9.7 billion people will live in water-stressed regions by 2050, MIT researchers say.
The researchers used the MIT Integrated Global System Model Water Resource System (IGSM-WRS) to evaluate water resources and needs worldwide. The modeling tool also allowed researchers to measure how climate change and socioeconomics affect water stress.
The study found population and economic growth are the socioeconomic factors most responsible for increased water stress, resulting in an additional 1.8 billion people living in water-stressed areas. Of these additional people, 80 percent will live in developing countries.
Climate change, on the other hand, will have a bigger affect on water availability in developed nations, the study says.
Thirty-seven countries face “extremely high” levels of water stress, using more than 80 percent of their available water supply every year, according to the World Resources Institute’s water stress rankings published last month.
This means that more than 80 percent of the water available to agricultural, domestic and industrial users is withdrawn annually, which can hurt businesses, farms and communities, according to a WRI blog. As an example, the blog cites recent droughts, which threatened GDP growth in the US.