Map Monday: a look at the world’s most precious resource – water

This Map Monday was inspired by a link shared with me by my friend Mark Kirby. Thanks, Mark. It’s not exactly a map, but the diagrams and narrative in this Visual Capitalist article are very interesting and well worth a read.

The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side, Image credit: Visual Capitalist

Thinking about the world’s 25 largest lakes and seeing how much some of them have shrunk made me decided to explore the world’s renewable sources of fresh water through maps

Just so you know why lakes feature large in Canadian identity, this interesting map from Water Canada shows where most of the lakes are found in the world!

Measuring water resources for a country includes sources of fresh water (lakes and rivers), average annual precipitation, and ground water. Of course climate change is changing measurements like precipitation as we speak. For example, the glaciers are melting at alarming rates in the Himalayas, which will drastically impact the reliable water sources for countless millions of people in Southeast Asia in the future. And storms are dumping more water, but because of the violence of the storms, much of that is ending up as runoff.

Let’s take a look at water resources – and lack thereof – around the world. This map shows renewable water in each country per capita (by population). Remember, you can click on any map to zoom in on details.

Total annual actual renewable water resources per inhabitant, Image credit: https://knoema.com/atlas/topics/Water/Total-Renewable-Water-Resources/

This next map shows where the water actually is and isn’t. Notice that countries that show adequate or even healthy water resources in the previous map have very different water concerns depending on location within the country.

Overall Water Risk, Image credit: Wikipedia

This next map is an interesting one. It shows what percentage of the water usage within each country is used for domestic purposes (drinking, cooking, bathing, watering lawns, golf courses, filling swimming pools, etc.), agriculture, and industry. The bars for each country add up to 100% of the water consumed annually in that country, which is far more per capita in some countries than others. Keep in mind that when it shows a high bar for agriculture or industry it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not using plenty for domestic. In poor countries where there’s inadequate water, period, if they didn’t use the water they have on agriculture they’d have no food. In rich countries, they typically use more than they need to on domestic even when the bars for domestic are very small, indicating that overall they use one heck of a lot of water.

Water supply, water usage, Image credit: Open University, UK

Think about the usage map above as you take a look at this map showing how rapidly some countries are overusing their vulnerable renewable water supplies.

Water withdrawal as a percentage of total available water, Image credit: GRID Arendal

This next map shows the parts of the world that are at the most extreme risk for water scarcity. As we know, you can’t live without water. Clean water.

Image credit: Bloomberg.com

One way in which countries are adapting to having sufficient water for what they consider their needs (growing water-intensive produce in the desert, for example) as they exhaust their natural supply is to turn to desalination. It’s interesting to see just how far-reaching desalination has become. You might be surprised at its extent. Is this where we’re headed on an even larger scale, using the world’s oceans for our water?

Image credit: mit.edu

This is a summer long weekend in Canada. For everyone who is out on one of Canada’s magnificent lakes or rivers today, stop and give thanks for this special gift of nature.

Addendum. It’s not a map, but this table of Countries ranked by renewable internal freshwater resources per capita (cubic meters) is pretty darn interesting.

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8 Responses to Map Monday: a look at the world’s most precious resource – water

  1. Jean says:

    Being out here in the prairies, there is recreational appreciation of freshwater bodies. However there is proof due to expansion of our cities, etc. of limited water supply for home use.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Yes, there are some beautiful lakes and rivers in your region. But there are also some dry areas that will undoubtedly become drier as climate change takes hold, and plenty of agricultural areas that need plenty of water. You’re right, Jean, there will be challenges for domestic use ahead. 😥

  2. Robert Brown says:

    I always felt that winter is the reason we have so many lakes in Canada. Deep cold acts as a dam, freezing water such that it is stored. I’m not sure why Russia has any less density. With global warming all that could change.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Interesting theory, Bob! I’m pretty sure one main reason is the geology of the Canadian Shield, which traps water (rain, snow, ground water, melting glaciers from long ago) to form lakes. Whatever the reasons, I agree that climate change is likely to bring changes, just as it’s already doing to the sea ice and thawed permafrost. What man hath wrought!

  3. AMWatson207 says:

    To say I liked this essay is, perhaps, misleading. It scared the stuffing out of me. Clearly we are exhausting our world and too many of us feel if we don’t have a problem right now we don’t have a problem. Thank you for a brief but important review.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      AM, you have hit the nail on the head. Like with everything else we’re doing to screw our planet, overusing our water supplies are right up there. And as climate change starts making parts of the developing world uninhabitable due to heat and dryness, there will be mass migration of people needing water. We have a lot to answer for.

  4. Well I’ve learned something today, I never knew Britain has a desalination plant.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. I had no idea there were so many plants, and in so many places I wouldn’t have imagined, like the UK. It’s fascinating. In some places it’s for human survival, but I can see that it’s mostly for industrial and agricultural use. We’ve both learned something!

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