By 2025, 1.8 Billion People Will Experience Absolute Water Scarcity, and 2/3 of the World Will Be Living under Water-Stressed Conditions

Human Wrongs Watch

Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster.


(UNCCD)* — By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions (1).

Fresh water is a vital and defining feature for sustainable development. Globally, over two billion people live in countries that experience high water stress (UN-Water 2019 from UN, 2018).

Other estimates are even more pessimistic, with up to four billion people – over half the population of the planet – already facing severe water stress for at least one month of the year while half a billion suffer from permanent water stress (Global Land Outlook, 2017).

About 71 per cent of the world’s irrigated area and 47 per cent of major cities experience at least periodic water shortages. If this trend continues, the scarcity and associated water quality problems will lead to competition and conflicts among water users.

Climate change will increase the odds of worsening drought and water scarcity in many parts of the world. Drought ranks among the most damaging of all natural hazards. While droughts affects every climate zone, drylands are particularly susceptible to drought and its impacts.

Currently, most countries, regions and communities use reactive and crisis-driven approaches to manage drought risk. To address this issue, the UNCCD supports decision makers, water- and land managers by advocating for a proactive, coordinated and holistic drought risk management based on three key pillars:

  • Early warning and monitoring systems
  • Vulnerability and impact assessment and
  • Drought risk mitigation measures

Healthy land is a natural storage for fresh water. If it is degraded, it cannot perform that function. Managing land better and massively scaling up land rehabilitation are essential for building drought resilience and water security.

Land restoration is the cheapest and most effective solution to improved water storage, mitigating impacts of drought and addressing biodiversity loss. The UNCCD Science Policy Interface promotes a novel concept of Drought-smart land management (D-SLM), based on scientific evidence on the linkages between land use and drought, as well as their connection to water use.

To move forward with the proactive approach and support implementation of the drought risk management key pillars, the UNCCD Parties decided at COP14 to establish an intergovernmental working group on effective policy and implementation measures for addressing drought under the UNCCD.

Learn more about the UNCCD-led Drought Toolbox:

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