Sustainable Development Goals

Indicator 6.4.2 - Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources

The level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources is the ratio between total freshwater withdrawn by major economic sectors and total renewable freshwater resources, after taking into account environmental water requirements. This indicator is also known as water withdrawal intensity and will measure progress towards SDG Target 6.4.

Target 6.4

By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.


This indicator will improve knowledge on the efficiency and sustainability of water usage. Together with indicator 6.4.1, it will provide vital information to ensure that water resources support the world's ecosystems and continue to be available for future generations.

Key results

Water stress, determined as the ratio of total fresh water withdrawn to the total renewable freshwater resources in a particular country or region, after considering the water needed for sustaining the natural environment, affects countries on every continent. Not only does it hinder the sustainability of natural resources, but it also hampers economic and social development, tending to disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged people.

Water stress is over 60% in Western Asia, Central Asia and Northern Africa, meaning that these regions face serious water stress, at least during parts of the year. Such difficulties are typically tackled by making use of non-conventional water resources, such as reuse of wastewater, desalinated water and direct use of agricultural drainage water. Efforts should be made in those regions, and particularly the most affected sub-regions therein, to reduce the abstraction of water, by increasing productivity and efficiency in the use of water resources.

Most other regions however are below that threshold, and the majority stay well below 25% threshold of initial water stress, up to which there is scope for sustainably increasing the use of water by people and the economy. Additional country-level analysis reveals that 23 countries experience water stress above 70 percent, while 15 countries withdraw more than 100 percent of their renewable freshwater resources.

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