NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Poverty Linked to Water

January 3, 2003

A water poverty index (WPI) developed by United Kingdom (U.K.) researchers and experts from the World Water Council found that some of world's richest nations, such as the United States and Japan, rank poorly while some developing nations are in the top 10.

Researchers said the links between poverty, social deprivation, environmental integrity, water availability, and health becomes clearer in the WPI, enabling policy makers and stakeholders to identify where problems exist.

The WPI grades 147 countries according to water resources, access, capacity, use and environmental impact. According to the WPI:

  • The top ten water-rich nations, in descending order are Finland, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Guyana, Suriname, Austria, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland.
  • At the other end of the scale, the ten countries lowest on the index are Haiti, Niger, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, Djibouti, Chad, Benin, Rwanda, and Burundi.

It is not the amount of water resources available that determine poverty levels in a country, say researchers, but the effective use of those resources.

  • Furthermore, researchers say that fresh water demand is increasing three times as fast as the population.
  • In many countries water shortages stem from inefficient use, water too polluted for use by humans or the unsustainable use of underground aquifers (which can take thousands of years to refill with water).
  • At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in South Africa this year, world leaders agreed to cut the proportion of people without access to potable water and sanitation by half by 2015.

Plans to meet this goal will be a key topic at the next World Water Forum, in Kyoto, Japan, in March, 2003.

Source: Haroon Ashraf, "Poverty Linked to Access to Water, Says New Water League Table," Lancet, Volume 360, Number 9349, December 14, 2002.

 

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