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Concerns about water shortages on the rise

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Water sources around the world are increasingly threatened and more and more people are concerned about fresh water shortages. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Concerns about water shortages on the rise

According to new research published ahead of the first United Nations Water Conference in 46 years held in New York this week, 58% of people across the world are seriously concerned about fresh water shortages.    

New research from GlobeScan highlights the global impact of worsening water shortages, which are disrupting societies, economies, the environment, and every aspect of life as we know it.

According to the research 58% of people across the world are very concerned about fresh water shortages, while 30% say they have personally been “greatly” impacted by a lack of fresh water.

Climate change is strongly connected to water shortages, with nearly four in ten people, who have been personally affected by climate change, saying they experienced it through drought.

Together with Circle of Blue and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), GlobeScan is releasing these key water findings from its GlobeScan Radar Survey ahead of the UN Water Conference from March 22-24, where governments and companies must commit to urgent action to tackle the world’s water crises.

According to Carl Ganter, Managing Director at Circle of Blue, the research results is a crucial barometer that reveals increasing public demand for action from political and corporate leaders.

“We are now seeing a convergence point as public opinion is aligned with profound realities as the world faces compounding water challenges that are affecting how we grow our food, generate our power, and support a sustainable economy and environment.

“This survey of some 30,000 people definitively shows that citizens around the world are feeling and talking about the effects of water and climate stress,” says Ganter.

Key research findings (Concerns about water shortages on the rise)

Key research findings include:

  • 58% of people globally believe that fresh water shortages is a “very serious” issue. Mexicans, Colombians, and Brazilians report the most concern about access to water, while people in China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea are the least concerned. In South Africa, 79% of people said water shortages were a very serious concern.
  • Strong concern about fresh water shortages has increased over the past few years, from a low of 49% in 2014 to 61% in 2022 among 17 countries consistently tracked, along with concern about climate change (45% in 2014 to 65% in 2022).
  • People in Argentina, South Korea, Vietnam, Colombia, Germany, and Peru report the largest increases in concern about water shortages over the past year.
  • 30% of people globally claim they are “greatly” personally affected by fresh water shortages, while a global majority feel at least moderately personally affected (56%). Only one-quarter (25%) say they are not affected at all. In South Africa, 40% of people said they had been ‘greatly impacted’ by fresh water shortages and 27% said they had been moderately impacted.
  • Majorities of people surveyed in Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Peru, and Turkey say they are greatly personally affected by a lack of fresh water. In contrast, fewer than one in ten say they are greatly affected in Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.
  • Globally, people in urban areas (32%) are more likely than those in rural (28%) or towns and suburban areas (26%) to feel greatly affected by a lack of fresh water.
  • As many as 38% of people say they have been “greatly” personally affected by climate change, while as many as 75% have been at least “moderately” affected.
  • People who say they have been personally affected by climate change often mention drought as one of the ways they have been impacted; 37% of those experiencing climate change personally claim this is through experiencing drought. Of the South Africans who reported being impacted by climate change, 39% said they were impacted by drought and 48% by floods.
  • 96% of South Africans say water pollution in rivers, lakes and oceans is a very serious or serious issue

Time to invest in solutions (Concerns about water shortages on the rise)

Alex Morgan, WWF Global Water Stewardship Lead says that through collaboration solutions can be found.

“With nature loss and climate instability increasing, water scarcity will only worsen, impacting societies and economies across the globe. Yet through collaboration, restoring wetlands, re-connecting rivers, and replenishing aquifers, we have proven ways to tackle these shared water challenges. It’s time to urgently invest in these solutions,” says Morgan.

“It comes as no surprise that people are becoming more and more worried about the availability of fresh water. Last year droughts affected the lives of countless numbers of people on every continent. Indicators suggest this is likely to get worse.

“High levels of public concern about water means there is an opportunity right now for governments and NGOs to help people and businesses understand how their actions can genuinely make a difference to this globally important problem that affects all of us,” says Perrine Bouhana, Director at GlobeScan.

Concerns about water shortages on the rise

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Concerns about water shortages on the rise

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