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A World Without Water

In this photo taken on June 20, Indian residents wait with plastic to get water at a distribution point in Chennai after reservoirs for the city ran dry.  The drought is the worst in living memory for the bustling capital of Tamil Nadu state.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

What would happen if we ran out of water?

For an increasing number of people, that question is moving from a hypothetical to a reality.

New data from the World Resource Institute show that a quarter of the world’s population is at high risk of running out of water.

In India, residents of southern India’s biggest metropolitan area have been suffering because of water scarcity.

From the AP:

In Chennai, a coastal city of about 10 million and the capital of Tamil Nadu state, rapid development and rampant construction have overtaxed a once-abundant natural water supply, forcing the government to spend huge sums to desalinate sea water, bring water by train from hundreds of kilometers (miles) away and deploy an army of water trucks to people whose household taps have suddenly run dry.

The water shortfall is disrupting business at all levels, from the gleaming, 45-kilometer (28-mile) IT Corridor to the neighborhood tea shop. Some workers have been asked not to report to the office while others have had to give up a day’s wages to wait for the erratic water truck that makes daily deliveries.

A variety of factors are to blame, from climate change and erratic rainfall patterns to unsustainable water management systems.

But there are many ways cities and towns around the globe can better use — and reuse — their water.

The World Resources Institute recommends several steps, including investing in more efficient infrastructure and reforming the agricultural system to prioritize water efficiency.

They also recommend reusing water.

We need to stop thinking of wastewater as waste. Treating and reusing it creates a “new” water source. There are also useful resources in wastewater that can be harvested to help lower water treatment costs. For example, plants in Xiangyang, China and Washington, D.C. reuse or sell the energy- and nutrient-rich byproducts captured during wastewater treatment.

With drying dams and groundwater going fast, what can be done to turn this looming shortage around? We bring you an update on the world’s water supply.

Produced by Kathryn Fink.


Betsy Otto, Director, Global Water Program, World Resources Institute

Veena Srinivasan, Fellow, Water, Land and Society Program, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology; @veenas_water

Doug Parker, Director, California Institute for Water Resources, University of California – Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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