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Water Stress Magnifies Drought’s Negative Impacts throughout the United States

Years of Living Dangerously, a new Showtime series about climate change, turned its lens on how drought devastated the small town of Plainview, Texas in its first episode. In Plainview—and every other drought-stricken place across the United States—a precipitous drop in rainfall is only part of a much broader story. Underlying water stress is one important piece of that complicated puzzle. When drought strikes where baseline water stress is high, it exacerbates regions’ water woes.

Drought Is Only One Explanation for California’s Water Crisis

As California lawmakers move forward with potential solutions to the state’s current water shortage, it’s important to consider the full context of underlying reasons for California’s water vulnerability.

Our research shows that about 66 percent of the state’s irrigated agriculture—its biggest water user—faces extremely high levels of baseline water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the available water supply is already being used by farms, homes, businesses, and energy producers. It’s clear that even without drought, the state would be in trouble.

World’s 18 Most Water-Stressed Rivers

WRI’s Aqueduct project recently evaluated, mapped, and scored stresses on water supplies in the 100 river basins with the highest populations, 100 largest river basins, and 180 nations. We found that 18 river basins—flowing through countries with a collective $US 27 trillion in GDP—face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the water naturally available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users is withdrawn annually—leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity.

Making Economic Valuation Count for Coastal Ecosystems in the Caribbean

Governments, businesses, development agencies, and NGOs are increasingly turning to economic valuation as a way to protect coral reefs and mangroves. This process makes the economic case for protection and sustainable use of natural resources by showing the monetary, employment, and infrastructure benefits ecosystems provide—metrics that are easily understood by decision-makers.

But not all economic valuations are created equal. WRI's new guidebook shows how NGOs and other stakeholders can conduct economic valuations in ways that lead to real change on the ground.

Coastal Capital: Ecosystem Valuation for Decision Making in the Caribbean

This guidebook details the steps in conducting a coastal ecosystem valuation to inform decision making in the Caribbean. It guides valuation practitioners—both economists and non-economists—through the three phases of a valuation effort (scoping, analysis and outreach), with an emphasis on...

Multinationals Need to Take Notice and Take Action on Water Risk Data

New research from the World Resources Institute scores water-related risks facing 180 countries and 100 river basins. This is the first national-level data of its kind, evaluating competition for available water supplies, annual and seasonal supply variability, flood occurrence, and drought severity.

The data paints a country-level picture of water risks, information that is clearly relevant for national policymakers. But this research also holds huge implications for the private sector—particularly for shareholders and investors, corporate operations, and corporate supply chains. Multinational businesses should take notice—and take action.

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