Water crises can shake societies, destroy livelihoods and threaten prosperity for decades. They can also be the spark that sets aflame a powder keg of social and political issues, resulting in violent conflict.
From the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Turkey to the desert wadis on the southern tip of Yemen, the history of water conflicts provides a cautionary tale: When water and politics mix, freshwater can become both a weapon and a threat to national security.
Power from solar and wind requires zero or little water, unlike coal, gas and other forms of thermal power. Renewable energy can therefore be particularly attractive to water-stressed countries looking to meet their increasing electricity demands without producing emissions.
While more than one-third of China still suffers from high water stress, there are signs of improvement: New WRI analysis shows that the rate of increase in the country's water withdrawals has slowed from 5.1 billion cubic meters per year in 2001-2010 to 1.6 billion cubic meters per year from 2010-2015.
Cape Town, South Africa has been in the news for its impending "Day Zero," when the city will shut off taps and start rationing water, but its reservoirs aren't the only ones shrinking. Satellite images reveal dwindling water supplies in Morocco, India, Iraq and Spain.
Fourteen of India’s 20 largest thermal utilities experienced at least one shutdown due to water shortages between 2013-2016, at a cost of $1.4 billion. It's a taste of what's to come in a warmer, more crowded world.