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A New Map Aims to Show Where the Well Runs Dry and Who's to Blame

BY Julia Wetherell | Friday, February 1 2013

The WRI's Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas.

One out of six people worldwide do not have stable access to safe water sources. With the global population projected to reach 9 billion in the next few decades, the water crisis may soon be named the most pressing issue of the 21st century. A new mapping tool hopes to give a clear picture of worldwide water risk by highlighting the stresses that cause it.

The World Resources Institute, a global environmental think tank known for its EarthTrends reports, has partnered with several multinational corporations to launch the interactiveAqueduct Water Risk Atlas. The map allows users to look at a world map through twelve different lenses of water risk — based on existing environmental conditions, such as flood plains or draught, as wells as area industrial risks. Nine overlays can be viewed for industries that are traditionally reliant on huge amounts of water – commercial agriculture, chemical synthesis, oil and gas production — giving a worldwide picture of their environmental toll.

Sanitation data, the subject of a worldwide hackathon in December, is not currently featured on the map, which seems more focused on industrial fault than humanitarian impact. In a press release from January 30, the WRI stated that the map intends to help “companies, investors, and governments” to make informed choices about how “water stress will affect operations locally and globally, and help prioritize investments that will increase water security.” Last summer, McDonald’s asked top suppliers to rate water stress levels near their production facilities based on an earlier version of the WRI map.

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