Water: 12 Things to Know

Article | 24 August 2015

Water resources in Asia and the Pacific are under increasing pressure from population growth, urbanization, pollution, over-abstraction of groundwater, and climate change. Over 75% of Asia is water insecure, with countries that are home to more than 90% of the region's population already facing an imminent water crisis.

  1. Asia’s water security is at risk from a range of interconnected pressures including population growth, urbanization, increasing water pollution, the over-abstraction of groundwater, water-related disasters, and climate change.
  2. Over 75% of Asia is water insecure, with countries that are home to more than 90% of the region’s population already facing an imminent water crisis.
  3. According to the 2015 Global Risks report by the World Economic Forum, the water crisis is now the world’s most impactful risk.
  4. Without efforts to improve water availability, water scarcity will become a constraint on economic growth. In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for example, an estimated 2.3% of gross domestic product is already lost because of water scarcity (1.3%) and the direct effects of water pollution (1%).
  5. Agriculture is the biggest consumer of water in Asia. On average, 70% of water resources in the region are used for growing food.
  6. With increasing prosperity, populations will require more water-intensive, meat-based diets. Agriculture will need to produce 60% more food globally by 2050, and 100% more in developing countries using the same finite water resources.
  7. The 2030 Water Resources Group has estimated the gap between water demand and supply will be 40% by 2030.
  8. Many countries in Asia rely heavily on groundwater for farming. The countries with the biggest irrigated areas using groundwater are India (39 million ha) and the PRC (19 million ha). Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan together pump about 210-250 km3 of groundwater using about 21-23 million pumps every year.
  9. Providing more food, energy, clean drinking water and access to sanitation without compromising the environment is even more challenging against the backdrop of climate change and the risk of water-related disasters.
  10. By 2050, 64% of the population in Asia will reside in cities and more than 50% of urban residents already live in low-lying coastal zones or flood plains. This places a large population at risk from urban flooding and other disasters.
  11. ADB currently invests about $2 billion per year in urban and rural water-related projects and about $4 billion in energy projects.
  12. ADB is the first multilateral development bank to implement a dedicated Water Operators Partnership Program (WOP), bringing together an experienced, efficient water utility and a utility needing help to deliver better services. The goal is to improve services, financial stability and other critical aspects of operational performance by adopting best practices of the mentor. Since 2007, ADB WOPs has completed 32 partnerships with 20 ongoing.