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Report: Trends in Global Drought and Water Stress

Updated on March 30, 2016

Global Temperatures December 2015


The New Reality

The data is absolutely definitive and the long-term trends are self explanatory- global warming and climate change are a fact of our new reality. In many parts of the world, increasing long-term global temperatures and low precipitation levels with urban and agricultural stressors and the warming influences of El Nina (2011-12) and El Nino (2015-16) weather systems have been aiding in the creation of chronic wide spread drought and water stress.

El Nino is currently expected to influence weather systems through to spring 2016. Many countries around the globe are dry and in distress including most of western Europe, Africa, India, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Australia, the Mediterranean, Ethiopia, Cuba, New Zealand, Spain, South America and the western United States and Canada. As drought becomes more intense and lengthily in these areas, common features are higher temperatures, low rain fall and low glacier melt from mountain ranges and substantial drying up of ground water resources leading to severe weather systems. Fresh water shortages and the resulting water stress paired with increasingly severe storms and flash flooding in some parts (which does not remedy long-term drought) has caused crop failures, lower food availability and shortages.

The average global surface temperature has been increasing steadily since 1880 and was the ninth highest on record in 2011 reports NASA. Since 2000, 9 of the 10 warmest years on historical record has also recently occurred in the last ten years (See Chart Below) .In Canada, 2015 was the driest and warmest year on record. NASA also confirms the earth is retaining more energy than it is releasing due to high atmospheric concentrations of emissions and CO2 in the atmosphere, therefore, resulting in higher global temperatures. CO2 concentrations were 280 ppm in 1880 and now are over 390 ppm and continually rising. Temperatures may also further rise due to an upswing trend in solar activity as well.

Global Temperature Increases- Trend 1880-2011


Global Increases in Temperature Trend 1880-2012

The World Resources Institute reports drought situations are leading to common arid climates and significant water stress around the globe. Austrailia's country wide 'millennium drought' began in 1995 ending in 2012 with massive flooding costing 10 million dollars. Severe drought lead to Spain's importing tons of water from France by ship. No where in the world is the water crisis more serious than in India, where 54% of the country is in high to extremely high water stress and the ground water losses are now visible from satellites in space. Due to lack of rainfall and drought, India became very dependent on the wide use of irrigation using ground water to maximize agriculture. India is now on the edge of agricultural collapse and vast water shortages.

China's skyrocketing use of water for industry, irrigation and municipal consumption during drought may see it's future soon drying up. Only now that there is high water pollution and crisis, is China finally looking at consumption caps and laws but it may be too little, too late. The catastrophic drought in the Middle East starting in 2007, left Syria in crisis and water resource wars that lead to food insecurity, unemployment and social unrest which displaced over 1.5 million people and forced mass migration. Brazil is battling the worst drought in 84 years, where 40 million people are at risk of water crisis as wide spread water pollution and reservoir levels are dangerously low. California is in year five of drought where water is being imported, farmers are in trouble and people are relocating while the western United States experiences continued losses due to drought. Meanwhile, Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years.

On the Canadian prairies, crops literally baked in the fields due to three years of dry weather exacerbated by the El Nino phenomenon and meterologists expect three more dry years on top. 2015 was the driest winter and spring in 68 years where soil levels and crop conditions are the worst they have been in half a century. Many worry about the financial implications of this drought, but the human tragedy is equally serious with people in depression, trauma and crisis over losses and forecasts. Farmers on the prairies have been more witness and people in urban centers are just starting to realize the very real impacts of climate change. The realization is that we are in danger.

Global Water Stress by Country


Does Canada face a water crisis? Yes.

While supply and quality issues plague many parts of the country, the real water crisis facing Canada is the loss of hydrologic stability (water cycle stability) that has resulted from changes in land use and a combination of natural and human-caused climate change. Water cycles (An algorithm) have changed due to temperature increases and now we have to figure out new patterns in water cycles. But a different algorithm that is not changing is the Clausius Clapeyron Relation. This is a constant rule that the water holding capacity of the earth's atmosphere is 7% per degree Celsius, or about 4% per degree Fahrenheit. With rises in temperature, more water is evaporated and held in the atmosphere causing higher humidity levels. As a result of more warm water in the air, there will definitely be more frequent storms with great intensity in the future. This means more flooding in wet parts of the country.

What needs to be done? We need to undo damage that has been done. We need to cut overall emissions now and stop draining wetlands. Agriculture needs to become sustainable not a constant strain on water resources. We have to restore our water basins and lakes. This can take decades and great investment. We need a solid sustainability policy, caps and laws to protect resources which means a reform of the Water Act. If we do not adapt soon, we do not survive the changes. Government, private industry, farmers, water shed alliances and environmental groups must overcome the bureaucracy that limits progress and change. Our survival depends on it. Everyone must learn to limit water use, conserve and recycle. We as individuals and as a society need to place the highest value upon water, for life cannot continue without it. In some countries, it is simply too late. They did not acknowledge the issues, adapt, plan and change in time. The question remains...will we?


World Resources Institute: A look at 7 Recent Droughts, June 2015.

CBC:Bad News for Western Drought, July 2015,

An Unexpected Water Crisis, Robert Sandord,


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    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 

      2 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

      "High tide levels also seem to be rising, but that could also be from erosion of beaches."

      I don't know what sea level rise is doing around the Phillippines--there's a lot more regional differences in global sea level than you'd think--but on average the sea is rising at a bit more than 3 millimeters each year. In the US, it's getting to be a serious nuisance, and in some places, like Miami Beach, an existential threat:

    • JasmenVilando profile image

      Jasmen Vilando 

      2 years ago from Yokohama

      Thank you for this hub. It is very informative and a bit scary when I think about my home country, the Philippines. In my country there has been a noticeable increase in coral bleaching (corals turning white and even dying) from warmer sea temperatures near the surface. Fewer corals can mean fewer fish and less food for island residents. High tide levels also seem to be rising, but that could also be from erosion of beaches. The scary part is in the photo about water stress by country. Although the Philippines is an island country and surrounded by water, some small islands have no fresh water for their rising populations.

      Thank you for this hub and helping to sound the alarm!

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 

      2 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Thanks for a good, if unsettling, summation of some stuff that should be better known.


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