Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2012
 
   
F. Environment
 
F.3. Water availability and use

Water security involves the protection of livelihoods, human rights, and cultural and recreational values, as well as the preservation of ecosystems for socio-economic development.1 One of the key aspects of water security means that people enjoy universal access to safe, sufficient and affordable drinking water in order to meet basic needs.

The growing population and rapid urbanization in Asia and the Pacific have increased pressure on water resources. The demand for water has surged and the demand pattern has changed as the domestic and industrial sectors have become more significant users of water; however, agriculture still uses most of the surface water available. Higher levels of urbanization have resulted in the need for an increased quantity of food produced with a smaller number of people in the agricultural sector, which in turn has led to more intensive farming practices that require more efficient water use.

Water availability is relatively constant, but there are large variations among subregions in Asia and the Pacific.

The availability of total renewable water resources in the region is relatively constant. Representing the maximum theoretical amount of water available in natural conditions, excluding human influence and the effects of climate change, total renewable water resources are a combination of the ambient surface water, groundwater and soil moisture. In 2011, total renewable water resources in the region equalled 20,521 billion m3, which represents approximately 38 per cent of total world water availability. Within the region, South-East Asia has the largest renewable water resources available, with about 31 per cent of total regional water availability, whereas the Pacific has the least, with only 8 per cent of total renewable water resources in the region.

Figure F.3-1
Annual per capita availability of water resources, world regions and Asian and Pacific subregions, 2011

Figure F.3-1 Annual per capita availability of water resources, world regions and Asian and Pacific subregions, 2011On the other hand, Asia and the Pacific has fewer renewable water resources per capita than the global average or than any other region in the world (see figure F.3-1). Within the region, the Pacific stands out with the highest availability of renewable water resources per capita, but that is also due to small population numbers. East and North-East Asia, and South and South-West Asia have especially low values for freshwater resources per capita. However, average figures do not necessarily provide a clear picture of the reality at the local level.

There is great potential for freshwater withdrawal in Asia and the Pacific but this is not spread equally across the region; there exist areas of water scarcity, from both natural and induced water stress.

Figure F.3-2
Total annual freshwater withdrawal as a percentage of total renewable water resources by country, Asia and the Pacific, 2011

Figure F.3-2 Total annual freshwater withdrawal as a percentage of total renewable water resources by country, Asia and the Pacific, 2011The high level of freshwater withdrawal in Asia and the Pacific can be attributed to the region’s geographical size and large population, as well as its extensive and intensive irrigation practices and other economic activities. The five subregions have markedly different climatic zones, and freshwater withdrawal as a percentage of total water availability varies accordingly. Millennium Development Goal indicator 7.5 is the ratio of the amount of water used by society to the amount of water “supplied” by nature. The supply is the estimated sum of current water resources generated within a country (that is, precipitation) and the inflows from neighbouring territories. The amount of water abstracted, excluding hydroelectricity, provides an indication of the amount of water used.2 The indicators for some countries in the region are presented in figure F.3-2, whereas figure F.3-3 presents the total availability of natural water resources and total freshwater withdrawal for countries in the region.

Figure F.3-3
Availability of natural water resources and total freshwater withdrawal by country, Asia and the Pacific, 2011

Figure F.3-3 Availability of natural water resources and total freshwater withdrawal by country, Asia and the Pacific, 2011The indicator may not show important contrasts between areas of countries or between seasons. Within many countries in Asia and the Pacific, there are areas with relatively abundant renewable freshwater resources and other areas where water is much scarcer. There is also a significant seasonal element, particularly for countries in South-East Asia, which experience wet and dry seasons. In all of these cases, it is important to have information by catchment area and for the different seasons. For example, in Thailand, 80 per cent of annual precipitation falls between May and October.3 In China, where roughly half of the country’s population lives in the south and the other half in north, about 80 per cent of total renewable water resources are concentrated in the southern portion of the country.4

Competition for water increases as a country develops economically and water use shifts from the agricultural sector to the domestic and industrial sectors.

Freshwater resources are finite, but the population of the Asian and Pacific region has grown steadily over the past two decades, and it is predicted to increase by approximately another 15 per cent between 2010 and 2030. Due to this population growth, more water will be required for all socio-economic activities, and there is a need for countries to improve their management of non-revenue water losses and water use per person per day. In terms of percentages, water used by the domestic and industrial sectors will continue to increase while the percentage for agricultural use will continue to decrease.

Water use in the agricultural sector is much higher than it is in the domestic sector. In most countries in the region, water withdrawal is between 60 per cent and 90 per cent for agricultural use, between 5 per cent and 15 per cent for domestic use, and between 5 per cent and 30 per cent for industrial use, depending on the country. Countries that have low water withdrawal for agricultural use include Papua New Guinea at 0.3 per cent (2005), the Russian Federation at 20 per cent (2001) and Malaysia at 22 per cent (2005). Maldives uses 95 per cent (2008) and Papua New Guinea 57 per cent (2005) of water for domestic use. Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Timor-Leste use less than 1 per cent (2000-2008) for the industrial sector, while the Russian Federation uses 60 per cent (2001).

Figure F.3-4
Proportional use of water withdrawal by sector, selected world regions and Asian and Pacific subregions, 2000-2010

Figure F.3-4 Proportional use of water withdrawal by sector, selected world regions and Asian and Pacific subregions, 2000-2010Water use per person per annum differs significantly from country to country depending on national level governance and management practices. Most countries in Asia and the Pacific use between 20 m3 and 80 m3 per capita per annum. High consumers are Brunei Darussalam at 384 m3 (2009) and New Zealand at 264 m3 (2000), whereas the lowest consumers are Nepal at 6 m3 (2005) and Cambodia at 7 m3 (2006).

Box F.3-1
Proportion of total water resources used and the availability of data (Millennium Development Goal indicator 7.5)

The need to monitor the supply and use of freshwater resources has received prominence globally, including through Millennium Development Goal indicator 7.5 on the proportion of total water resources used. However, the measurement of the supply and use of freshwater in countries has been constrained by problems associated with inconsistent terminology and a lack of coherence across methodologies. As discussed above, there are inherent limitations with producing national aggregate indicators for water supply and use that ignore seasonal variations and disparities across locations within a country. There is also a lack of availability of data for most ESCAP member States. Currently, statistics on the Millennium Indicators Databasea are unavailable or available only for one point in the time series for most countries in the region (see succeeding figure).

Number of Asian and Pacific countries with zero, one, or two or more data points, 1990-2010

Number of Asian and Pacific countries with zero, one, or two or more data points, 1990-2010

Source: United Nations, Data availability, Millennium Indicators Database. Available from http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/DataAvailability.aspx.

 

It is therefore important to collect data on water for countries and for the relevant areas and seasons within countries. The data collected will provide the basis for better policy decisions. The System of Environmental- Economic Accounting for Water and the International Recommendations for Water Statistics provide all the elements necessary to develop policy-relevant water statistics in countries.

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a Available from http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/.

Further reading

Asian Development Bank. Asian Water Development Outlook 2013: Measuring Water Security in Asia and the Pacific. Mandaluyong City, Philippines, 2013. Available from www.adb.org/publications/ asian-water-development-outlook-2013.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Irrigation in Southern and Eastern Asia in figures: AQUASTAT survey 2011, FAO Water Report, No. 37. Rome, 2012.

Hoekstra, Arjen Y. and Mesfin M. Mekonnen. The water footprint of humanity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 109, No. 9 (February 2012). Available from www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Hoekstra-Mekonnen-2012-WaterFootprint-of- Humanity.pdf.

Molden, David and others. Trends in water and agricultural development. In Water for Food, Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, David Molden, ed. London: Earthscan; Colombo: International Water Management Institute, 2007.

Technical notes

Renewable water resources, total (billion m3 per annum, m3 per capita per annum)
The sum of internal renewable water resources and natural incoming flows originating outside the country, taking into consideration the quantity of flows reserved to upstream and downstream countries through formal or informal agreements or treaties. That sum gives the maximum theoretical amount of water available in the country. Indicator calculations: Per capita figures are based on population figures (WPP2012). Aggregate calculations: Sum of individual country values (billion m3 per annum); weighted averages using total population (WPP2012) as weight (m3 per capita per annum). Missing data are not imputed.

Renewable water resources, internal (billion m3 per annum)
The long-term annual average flow of rivers and recharge of groundwater generated from endogenous precipitation. Aggregate calculations: Sum of individual country values. Missing data are not imputed.

Total freshwater withdrawal (billion m3 per annum, percentage of total renewable water per annum)
The gross amount of water extracted, either permanently or temporarily, from surface water or groundwater sources minus those produced from non-conventional water sources, such as reused treated wastewater and desalinated water. Indicator calculations: Proportion of total freshwater withdrawal to total renewable water per annum. Aggregate calculations: Sum of individual country values (billion m3 per annum); weighted averages using total renewable water as weight (percentage of total renewable water per annum). Missing data are not imputed.

Domestic water withdrawal (m3 per capita per annum)
The domestic water withdrawal divided by the total population, expressed in m3 per capita per annum. Domestic water withdrawal is the drinking water plus water withdrawn for homes, municipalities, commercial establishments and public services. Aggregate calculations: Weighted averages using total population (WPP2012) as weight. Missing data are not imputed.

Water withdrawal by sector: agriculture, domestic use and industry (percentage of total water withdrawal)
Water withdrawal by agricultural sector, public distribution network or industrial sector, divided by the total water withdrawal. The methods for computing agricultural water withdrawal vary from country to country. Domestic use can include industrial users that are connected to the network as domestic users and industry consists of self-supplied industries not connected to any distribution network. Aggregate calculations: Weighted average using the total water withdrawal for all purposes as weight. Missing data are not imputed.

Source

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), AQUASTAT database. AQUASTAT is FAO’s global information system on water and agriculture. The Land and Water Division collects, analyses and disseminates information on water resources, water uses and agricultural water management. Data obtained: 1-4 March 2013.

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1 United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and ESCAP, Water Security and the Global Water Agenda: A UN-Water Analytical Brief (United Nations University, 2013). Available from www.unwater.org/downloads/watersecurity_analyticalbrief.pdf.
2 The definitions of the various data items to be used are found in the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water and the International Recommendations for Water Statistics, both adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission. Only the renewable portion of water resources is included in the “supply.”
3 Thailand, Meteorological Department, “Annual weather summary of Thailand in 2011.” Available from www.tmd.go.th/programs%5 Cuploads%5CyearlySummary%5CAnnual2011_up.pdf.
4 China, Ministry of Water Resources, China Water Resources Bulletin 2006 (China Water Power Press, 2007).
 
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