Every year, the World Economic Forum asks leaders from government, business, and civil society to rank their most pressing risks. For eight consecutive years, including 2019, water crises have been in the top 5. Water is up with climate change, extreme weather, infectious disease, and cyber attacks at the tip of the world risk pyramid.
It’s easy to see why. Every other area of global risk—energy, commerce, agriculture, war, human migration—becomes more severe when water is scarce, overflowing, polluted, or poorly managed. In particular, a lack of water is often a slow-moving crisis, but it can devastate economies, threaten lives and livelihoods, and can cause instability that echoes far beyond parched countries.