Global Water Scarcity

April 28, 2023 • Volume 33, Issue 15
Can cooperation prevail over competition?
By Zarrín Caldwell


Experts have discussed the declining availability of freshwater for decades. Even though a long-overdue United Nations Water Conference took place in March, critics say addressing water shortages demands global leadership, significant investment and mandates for sustainable water management. Governments, including the United States, inevitably will have to make hard choices, especially where water is withdrawn faster than it is replenished. With transboundary waters accounting for 60 percent of the world's freshwater flows, conflicts over water may increase across borders and between sectors. So far, cooperative agreements have proven successful, such as in the Mekong Basin in Southeast Asia, the Okavango River area in South Africa and the Great Lakes region in North America. Governments and businesses are also cooperating to build water infrastructure and pursue innovations, but concerns remain over issues such as corporate control of water management and environmental damage from dams, desalination and pollution. While many see water as a basic human right and public resource that should be free, others say pricing water to reflect the true cost of delivery is necessary to encourage conservation.

Photo of floating dock on dry lakebed of Nevada's Lake Mead, on September 17, 2022. (Getty Images/David McNew)
A floating dock sits on the dry lakebed of Nevada's Lake Mead last fall as the Colorado River, which feeds the lake, falls to record lows. Climate change, overuse and other factors are causing steep drops in global water supplies. (Getty Images/David McNew)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Aquaculture and Maritime Policy
Apr. 28, 2023  Global Water Scarcity
Jun. 10, 2022  Governing the Seas
May 31, 2019  Global Fishing Controversies
Oct. 2007  Oceans in Crisis
Jul. 27, 2007  Fish Farming
Nov. 04, 2005  Saving the Oceans
Aug. 02, 2002  Threatened Fisheries
Sep. 27, 1985  Whaling: End of an Era
Jul. 16, 1982  Troubled Maritime Industry
Jun. 07, 1974  Oceanic Law
Sep. 29, 1965  National Maritime Policy
Sep. 04, 1963  Fishing Rights and Territorial Waters
Oct. 05, 1955  Territorial Waters and the High Seas
Jul. 21, 1954  Plight of the Maritime Industry
Jul. 10, 1935  Merchant Marine Policy of the United States
Jan. 15, 1929  Sea Power and Sea Law
Jul. 24, 1928  Government Aid to the Merchant Marine
Oct. 17, 1925  The Merchant Marine Problem
Apr. 26, 1924  The New Merchant Marine Situation
Agriculture and the Environment
Climate Change
Congress Actions
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Earth Sciences
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
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Federal Courts
General International Relations
Global Issues
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Lobbying and Special Interests
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Party Politics
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Protest Movements
Recycling and Solid Waste
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Regulation and Deregulation
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels
United Nations
Water Pollution
Water Resources