From: Robin Blackstone, ENN
Published March 24, 2014 02:16 PM

World’s river systems: Stressed OUT

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI) many, if not most of the world's rivers are stressed. Determining a systems water stress is based upon measuring the ratio of total water withdrawals to the available renewable supplies within the catchment area. Rivers are an indispensible resource for our communities and ecosystems and we are hugely dependent upon them for agriculture, industry and our natural systems. A stressed river system can severely threaten regional water security and economic growth, and potentially contribute to political instability—especially in the absence of an adequate water-management plan.



In addition to water volume removal resulting from over development, rivers are also increasingly faced with nutrient and chemical pollution, flooding and droughts, and human engineered adjustments further exacerbating the crisis mounting in our watersheds.

To address the issue, WRI sponsored the Aqueduct project to evaluate, map and score the world’s one hundred largest river systems affecting 180 nations. Their project defined a high stress system as one that exhibits withdrawal of greater than 40 percent of the available supply every year and an extremely high-stress system exceeds 80 percent. They found that eighteen of the "extremely high" stressed river basins traversed across countries that constitute $U.S. 27 trillion in GDP—clearly the crisis is affecting a lot of people.

Listed by highest population, the river systems exhibiting the highest water stress levels are as follows:

Qom River (Namak Lake) in Iran, Yongding He River in China, Brantas River in Indonesia, Harirud River in Afghanistan, Tuhai He River in China, Sabarmati River in India, Helmand River in Afghanistan, Sirdaryo River in Asia, Rio Maipo in Chile, the Dead Sea in Jordan, Solo River (Bengawan Solo) in Indonesia, the Indus River in Asia, Daliao He River in China, the Colorado River in the United States, the Palar River in India, the Bravo River (Rio Grande) in the United States, Liao He River in China and Huang He (Yellow River) in China.

River basin stress management is vital for our planet's future. Yet successful management is dependent upon understanding, cooperation and proactive cohesive response from all stakeholders including government, industry and civilians. Using WRI’s maps and assessments communities and governments can make better high-level decisions for more targeted response. 

Read more at the World Resources Institute.

Liao He River delta image via

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