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In numbers: less water means fewer water-related jobs

Nihar Gokhale | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:07 IST

Is water scarcity just about thirst? That is, of course, the most obvious result of loss of water resources, as is the reduction in food production.

But losing water is also about directly losing jobs, and rowing back economic progress.

For the 2016 edition of the World Water Day, the UNESCO has brought out a report focusing on what it terms the 'water-jobs nexus'.

More than three-fourths of all jobs in the world (the total number of jobs is twice India's population) directly depend on water. This includes both the jobs in water management and infrastructure, but jobs in activities that need water as a primary input.

Also read - World Water Day: a few numbers to make you think twice before wasting this resource

Both jobs and economic progress are at risk with water scarcity. A recent survey by the Carbon Disclosure Project found that a large number of businesses will see water-related risks within the next three years.

The World Economic Forum, in 2015, termed water crisis as the greatest threat facing the planet in the next decade.


  • Number of jobs that directly depend on water. This is 78% of all jobs.
  • Of these, 1.6 billion or 42% are "heavily dependent" on water, according to the UNESCO's report.
  • These include jobs in agriculture, inland fishing and also power generation.


  • Jobs in just the industrial sector that are 'heavily dependent' on water.
  • This is about 30% of all industrial jobs in the world.
  • This includes in food processing, textiles and pharmaceutical industries.


  • Of the workforce, that is about 1.1 billion persons, are involved in moderately water-dependent sectors.
  • This includes paper manufacturing, rubber, plastics and construction.
  • About 60% of all industrial and 30% of all service sector jobs come under this.


  • Of the global GDP is at risk due to dwindling water resources.
  • This will directly affect about half of the world's population, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).


  • The expected financial impact from water risks for 405 companies surveyed last year by the Carbon Disclosure Project.
  • About half the companies said they will face business risks within 3 years due to water scarcity
  • One-third of the companies said they are already facing detrimental impacts from water.


  • Energy sector's share in total water withdrawals in 2010.
  • By 2035, energy production will rise 70%, but water demand will increase only 20% due to renewables.
  • While 10 million jobs are expected to be added to the sector, these will be mostly in the renewable energy sector, which uses lesser water.

First published: 2 April 2016, 9:52 IST
Nihar Gokhale @nihargokhale

Nihar is a reporter with Catch, writing about the environment, water, and other public policy matters. He wrote about stock markets for a business daily before pursuing an interdisciplinary Master's degree in environmental and ecological economics. He likes listening to classical, folk and jazz music and dreams of learning to play the saxophone.