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5 Things We Learned in 2013 that Could Move the Needle on Sustainability

Two and a half millennia ago, Plato announced that “Human behavior flows from three things: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” Unfortunately, our human and corporate behavior on climate change is not even close to where it needs to be. But if the great philosopher was right (and he usually was), 2013 may have been a game changer.

The big news from 2013 came from gains in knowledge. New tools and research are opening our understanding much wider than before. But will we act on this? Knowledge can spur action, but this path is not guaranteed.

India’s Watershed Development Boosts Food Security, Improves Livelihoods

India struggles with water scarcity, a problem that poses especially huge implications for the country’s food security and rural livelihoods. The country has long-battled its scarcity issues through Watershed Development, a participatory approach to improve water management through afforestation and reforestation, sustainable land management, soil and water conservation, water-harvesting infrastructure, and social interventions. But while watershed development has been employed in communities throughout India, its potential long-term costs and benefits have not been well-understood or studied--until now.

A new working paper from WRI and WOTR finds that watershed development has provided more than $9 million dollars’ worth of food security and water management benefits to the water-stressed community, Kumbharwadi.

Watershed Development in India

Economic Valuation and Adaptation Considerations

This paper examines how economic valuation can improve our understanding of watershed development and how to overcome challenges related to data collection, valuing direct and indirect benefits, and climate change adaptation.

World’s 36 Most Water-Stressed Countries

WRI’s Aqueduct project recently evaluated, mapped, and scored water risks like these in 100 river basins, ranked by area and population, and 180 nations—the first such country-level water assessment of its kind. We found that 36 countries face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress (see list at bottom). This means that more than 80 percent of the water available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users is withdrawn annually—leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity.

Aqueduct Country and River Basin Rankings

A Weighted Aggregation of Spatially Distinct Hydrological Indicators

More and more countries around the world face high levels of water stress, but measuring and communicating that stress consistently is challenging. This paper ranks countries and river basins worldwide based on their exposure water-related risks. Specifically, it provides national and basin-...

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Water

Water Risks on the Rise for Three Global Energy Production Hot Spots

Energy and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, supported by data and analysis from WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, surveyed water risks among the world’s top energy-producing regions. They found that three energy sectors face particularly high water risks: shale gas in the United States, coal production and coal-fired power in China, and crude oil in the Middle East.

One-Quarter of World’s Agriculture Grows in Highly Water-Stressed Areas

A new interactive map from WRI’s Aqueduct project reveals that more than 25 percent of the world’s agriculture is grown in areas of high water stress. This figure doubles when looking at irrigated cropland, which produces 40 percent of global food supply.

This analysis highlights the tension between water availability and agricultural production. Finding a balance between these two critical resources will be essential—especially as the global population expands.

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