Understanding the Global Supply of Water
As the world’s population and its agricultural needs have grown, so too has the demand for water, putting the world’s supply of water under the microscope.
A century ago, freshwater consumption was six times lower than in modern times. This increase in demand and usage has resulted in rising stress on freshwater resources and further depletion of reservoirs.
This graphic by Chesca Kirkland uses insights from Our World in Data to break down water supply and also withdrawals per capita. The latter measures the quantity of water taken from both groundwater and freshwater sources for agricultural, industrial, or domestic use.
How Much Water Do We Have?
Many people know that more than 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. That’s 326 million trillion gallons of water, yet humanity still faces a tight supply. Why is that?
It’s because 97% of this water is saline and unfit for consumption. Of the remaining 3% of freshwater, about two-thirds are locked away in the form of snow, glaciers, and polar ice caps. Meanwhile, just under a third of freshwater is found in fast-depleting groundwater resources.
That leaves just 1% of global freshwater as “easily” sourced supply from rainfall as well as freshwater reservoirs including rivers and lakes.
Per Capita Water Withdrawals
Any look at a world map of rivers and lakes will reveal that fresh water distribution is highly uneven across different regions of the world.
Yet developed and developing countries alike require a lot of water for both commercial and personal use. Agriculture use alone accounts for an estimated 70% of the world’s available freshwater.
Below we can see how water withdrawals per capita have grown over the past decades, using the latest available data from each.
Many of the countries with the largest water withdrawals per capita are located in the arid deserts of Central Asia, including top-ranked Turkmenistan at 5,753 cubic meters of annual water withdrawals per person in 2005.
And for developing countries with high water usage, from Turkmenistan to Guyana, most of their water withdrawals are for agriculture. For example, an estimated 95% of available water in Turkmenistan goes towards agriculture.
Developed nations like Finland, New Zealand and the U.S. also withdraw tons of water, at more than 1,000 cubic meters annually per person, but their uses are notably different. In the United States, for example, 41% of water withdrawals in 2015 went to thermoelectric power generation, while 37% went towards irrigation and livestock. For Finland, on the other hand, 80% of water was used for industrial production.
Most of the countries with lower water withdrawals per capita, meanwhile, are concentrated in Africa. They include very populated countries, such as Nigeria and Kenya, which both withdrew around 75 cubic meters of water per person in 2015 and 2010 respectively. This also highlights the continent’s water accessibility and infrastructure issues.
Bridging the Water Inequity Gap
Over the years, various initiatives have emerged to mitigate the world’s water inequality gap.
Efforts include promoting water conservation practices, investing in efficient irrigation systems, and enhancing water infrastructure in regions most affected by scarcity.
Some nations in arid climates with coastal access, such as Saudi Arabia, are also converting ocean salt water to fresh water through desalination plants.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World
Comparing average Scope 1 emission intensities by sector according to an analysis done by S&P Global Inc.
Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World
Ever wonder which sectors contribute the most to CO2 emissions around the world?
In this graphic, we explore the answers to that question by comparing average Scope 1 emission intensities by sector, according to an analysis done by S&P Global Inc.
Defining Scope 1 Emissions
Before diving into the data, it may be useful to understand what Scope 1 emissions entail.
Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by a company, such as their facilities and vehicles.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Scope 1 emissions can do a good job of highlighting a company’s environmental footprint because they represent the direct emissions related to manufacturing or creating a company’s products, whether they are tangible goods, digital software, or services.
Scope 2 and 3 emissions, on the other hand, encompass the indirect emissions associated with a company’s activities, including those from a company’s purchased electricity, leased assets, or investments.
Ranking the Carbon Giants
According to S&P Global’s analysis of 2019-2020 average emissions intensity by sector, utilities is the most carbon-intensive sector in the world, emitting a staggering 2,634 tonnes of CO2 per $1 million of revenue.
Materials and energy sectors follow behind, with 918 tonnes and 571 tonnes of CO2 emitted, respectively.
|Sector||Sector Explanation||Scope 1 CO2 emissions per $1M of revenue, 2019-2020|
|Utilities||Electric, gas, and water utilities and independent producers||2,634 tonnes|
|Materials||Chemicals, construction materials, packaging, metals, and mining||918 tonnes|
|Energy||Oil and gas exploration/production and energy equipment||571 tonnes|
|Industrials||Capital goods, commercial services, and transportation||194 tonnes|
|Consumer staples||Food, household goods, and personal products||90 tonnes|
|Consumer discretionary||Automobiles, consumer durables, apparel, and retailing||33 tonnes|
|Real estate||Real estate and real estate management||31 tonnes|
|Information technology||Software, technology hardware, and semiconductors||24 tonnes|
|Financials||Banks, insurance, and diversified financials||19 tonnes|
|Communication services||Telecommunication, media, and entertainment||9 tonnes|
|Health care||Health care equipment, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and life sciences||7 tonnes|
S&P Global also reveals some interesting insights when it comes to various industries within the materials sector, including:
- Cement manufacturing exhibits an extremely high level of Scope 1 emissions, emitting more than double the emissions from the utilities sector (5,415 tonnes of CO2 per $1M of revenue)
- Aluminum and steel production are also quite emission-intensive, emitting 1,421 and 1,390 tonnes respectively in 2019-2020
- Relatively lower-emission materials such as gold, glass, metals and paper products bring down the average emissions of the materials sector
Given these trends, a closer look at emission-intensive industries and sectors is necessary for our urgent need to decarbonize the global economy.
Markets1 week ago
Charted: What are Retail Investors Interested in Buying in 2023?
Maps3 weeks ago
The Incredible Historical Map That Changed Cartography
Markets6 days ago
The $109 Trillion Global Stock Market in One Chart
Markets4 weeks ago
Charted: Six Red Flags Pointing to China’s Economy Slowing Down
VC+2 weeks ago
What’s New on VC+ in September
Markets4 days ago
Ranked: 15 of the World’s Least Affordable Housing Markets
Markets4 weeks ago
The 25 Best Stocks by Shareholder Wealth Creation (1926-2022)
Business2 weeks ago
Ranked: The 20 Best Franchises to Open in the U.S.