Are water crises – even water wars – coming? On this information, it looks like it

‘Day zero’ water crises: Spain, Morocco, India and Iraq at risk as reservoirs shrink

Shrinking reservoirs in Morocco, India, Iraq and Spain could spark the next “day zero” water crisis, according to the developers of a satellite early warning system for the world’s 500,000 dams.

Cape Town recently grabbed global headlines by launching a countdown to the day when taps would be cut off to millions of residents as a result of a three-year drought. Drastic conservation measures have forestalled that moment in South Africa, but dozens of other countries face similar risks from rising demand, mismanagement and climate change, say the World Resources Institute (WRI).Read more***

Decade of drought: a global tour of seven recent water crises

With a chronic overuse of resources, it only takes a few bad rainfalls or poor management decisions to plunge a region into crisis

An Indian woman carries an empty water pot as she crosses the dry bed of a pond at Mehmadpur village.
 Projections for water stress in 2020, 2030 and 2040 indicate that the global picture is likely going to get worse. Photograph: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

Every inhabited continent, to varying degrees, has areas where there is extremely high water stress. These are areas where more than 80% of the local water supply is withdrawn by businesses, farmers, residents and other consumers every year.

These so-called stressed areas are also the ones most vulnerable to episodic droughts. With chronic overuse of water resources, it only takes a string of years with bad rainfall or poor management decisions to plunge a region into crisis and chaos. Here’s a look at seven extreme droughts that have occurred in the past decade.

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Brazil drought: water rationing alone won’t save Sao Paulo

The solutions to the severe drought in Brazil must go deeper than water rationing and pressure changes, says the Alliance for Water network

An aerial view of the Atibainha dam, part of the Cantareira reservoir, during a drought in Nazare Paulista, Sao Paulo state in this November 18, 2014.
An aerial view of the Atibainha dam, part of the Cantareira reservoir, during the drought in Nazare Paulista, Sao Paulo state last November. Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters
It should be the rainy season. Instead Sao Paulo state is experiencing a third consecutive year with soaring temperatures and rainfall patterns well below historic records.
The main water reservoirs are operating at their lowest capacity. The Cantareira reservoir system, which serves more than nine million people in the state, is only 5% full. At the Alto Tietê reservoir network, which supplies three million people in greater Sao Paulo, water levels are below 15%.
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