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Progress on Level of Water Stress

While the majority of countries scored “well below the 25% threshold of initial water stress,” around 23 countries are reported as experiencing water stress above 70%, and 15 countries “withdraw more than 100% of their renewable freshwater resources.” These results are contrasted against declining water stress in 44 countries, half of which are in Europe, due to, inter alia, improved water-use efficiency and shifting economic activities to less water intensive sectors.

Specific solutions to reduce the abstraction of water recommended in the report include the increased use of non-conventional water resources, such as reuse of wastewater, desalinated water and direct use of agricultural drainage water. Safe wastewater reuse and recycling are highlighted as being “a significantly untapped resource for industry and agriculture,” although the report notes the need to first overcome “political and cultural barriers.”

Discussing how to apply the findings at the national level, the report notes that high water stress indicates substantial use of water resources, with greater impacts on resource sustainability and the potential for conflict among users. Relying on pilot results from Peru, the report concludes that interpretation of indicator 6.4.2 could be further enhanced by conducting a deeper analysis at the basin and regional level as this would provide a better picture of water stress distribution within a country, and therefore help to assess where to target more efforts.

The SDG 6.4.2 tracking report was published as part of the Integrated Monitoring of Water and Sanitation-Related SDG Targets (GEMI) initiative, which falls under the UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6. GEMI was established in 2014 to harmonize and expand existing monitoring efforts focused on water, wastewater and ecosystem resources (SDG targets 6.3 to 6.6)