Nearly one-fifth of the world's population lives in regions where the next climate event could threaten access to an essential resource -- water -- according to a newly published paper. The authors analyzed trends in global water usage from 1980 to 2016, with a focus on so-called inflexible consumption, such as irrigating perennial crops, cooling thermal power plants, storing water in reservoirs, and quenching the thirst of livestock and humans. Curtailing these uses would cause significant financial and societal hardship. Asia and, to a lesser degree, North America face a dilemma due to their high stress indices and large exposure: total human and livestock population, reservoir capacity, electricity generation and production of irrigated crops. These areas are particularly vulnerable to droughts or heat waves. The new index aids researchers in understanding where water issues are greatest and for what reasons.
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