Global patterns of water surplus and deficit

What are global patterns of water surplus and deficit?

The map below shows the global patterns of water surplus and deficit. Areas with a water surplus include North America, Europe and Asia. These areas have a water surplus for a range of reasons, including low population densities and high levels of rainfall. Areas with a water deficit include Northern Africa and the Middle East, where there may be low levels of rainfall, high agricultural demands and/or high population densities.

Countries around the world facing water surplus and deficit.

What are the reasons for increasing water consumption?

Global water consumption has significantly increased over the last few decades due to population growth, economic development, and agriculture.

Economic Development

As economies develop, the demand for water increases. Demand for water in HICs is considerably higher than in NEEs and LICs. However, as NEEs and LICs develop further, their water demand will also significantly increase.

As demand for food increases, pressure is put on agricultural systems to become more intensive. This requires significantly more water for irrigation and processing. By 2050, global demand for food is expected to increase by 70 per cent.


Processing and manufacturing industries require considerable amounts of water. Industrial processes can lead to increased water pollution, reducing availability within a country.

The demand for water for drinking, washing and sanitation increases with urbanisation. Areas that are already experiencing water stress are those with the greatest potential for urbanisation in the future.

As people become wealthier, their water demand increases. Wealth leads to purchasing more home appliances and a greater demand for leisure activities such as golf that require water.

Population growth

Over the last 70 years, there has been considerable growth in the world’s population. Much of this growth has happened in LICs and NEEs, many of which already suffer water insecurity and water deficit. The fastest population growth is occurring on the African continent, presenting significant challenges in providing fresh water for all.

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