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stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources is the ratio between total freshwater withdrawn by major economic sectors and total renewable freshwater resources, after taking into account environmental water requirements.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.

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

Impact

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

Globally, water stress remains at a safe 17 percent. However, the world average masks huge regional variations.

  • Central and South Asia as well as Northern Africa all register very high water stress over 70 percent, with the former two regions even having experienced an upward surge in water stress between 2015 and 2017.

  • Western Asia and Eastern Asia follow with water stress levels between 45 and 70 percent, with both regions registering either a stable or decreasing water stress level since 2015.

For this reason, the gradually increasing trend of global water stress over the past 20 years reflects increasing stress in several areas of the world, which decreases in other areas of the world are not able to compensate.

By contrast, the water stress in some regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South America is low enough to provide some countries with scope for sustainably increasing water use, provided that adequate precautions are taken. In regions affected by high water stress, urgent and concrete measures are required to save water and increase water use efficiency.

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