Water Stress Country Ranking

Global baseline water stress scores and country ratings

  • Source: WRI


This dataset shows the baseline water stress rating for countries and water basins at a national scale. Baseline water stress is a measure of the level of competition for available water and estimates the degree to which freshwater availability is an ongoing concern in a region. The dataset’s main focus is to include detailed and accurate information for the world’s 100 most populous river basins, as they are often areas where water stress is a large concern. Additionally, researchers grouped the final dataset into water usage by different sectors (agricultural, domestic, and industrial) to help understand where water stress in an area is coming from. The dataset was calculated by comparing weighted averages of water withdrawals in a region to the quantity of water available. The results were projected on a global map in five water stress risk categories: low, low to medium, medium to high, high, and extremely high.

Understanding water stress is integral for human wellbeing. Water is a limited resource and a necessity for life. Water stress can have serious environmental consequences, with damage occurring to natural ecosystems reliant on a steady water supply. Additionally, water stress can lead to human and business conflicts, particularly between industrial and agricultural users that rely on water supply for production.

This dataset was created by the World Resources Institute (WRI) to assist companies, investors, and governments creating water use policies.


Researchers created this global dataset to include the 100 most populous river basins and all countries. Baseline water stress was calculated by dividing the weighted average water withdrawals in a region by the total blue freshwater available. To create the weighted average water withdrawals researchers used information on water withdrawals and divided each region into grid cells. Each grid cell was given a different weight based on the water withdrawals and water available within it. The grid cells were then combined to encompass different regions shown in the final dataset. Researchers further separated the dataset to view water usage in three different sectors (agricultural, domestic, and industrial).

Baseline water stress values were grouped into five categories when mapped: low, low to medium, medium to high, high, and extremely high. The water stress scores for each category are as follows: Low <1, low to medium 1-5, medium to high 5-10, high 10-20, and extremely high >20. Each category represents the risk of water stress in the area. Data for country boundaries was taken from the Natural Earth Data 10m Admin 0 – Countries dataset. Data on the extent of the 100 most populous river basins was taken from HydroSHEDS 30s Basin Outlines and Gridded Population of the World, v3, Future Estimates 2010 datasets. Gridded weights and source indicators (baseline water stress) were calculated using Aqueduct Global Maps 2.0.

The final dataset was created in tabular format and projected on a global map of the earth at a national scale. For the full documentation, please click on the “Learn more” button.

Data shown on Resource Watch Map

Additional data for flood occurrence from 1985 to 2011 and drought severity from 1091 to 2008 is available from the data provider. Resource Watch also shows interannual variability and seasonal variability in water supply from the same dataset. Please click on the “Learn More” button to find this data on the source website.

This data has been mapped on Resource Watch by joining it with Natural Earth boundaries.


Excerpts of this description page were taken from the source metadata. Resource Watch shows only a subset of the dataset. For access to the full dataset and additional information, click on the “Learn more” button.

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Formal name

Aqueduct Country and River Basin Rankings


  • There is inherently some uncertainty when calculating water resources as they have large spatial variation cross administrative and ecological boundaries. Additionally, water availability is a complex topic that inevitably loses some detail when it is simplified into a single value. Where available, more detailed, locally sourced data should be preferred.
  • Regions of very high and low risk values can be disguised for watersheds that cross multiple climactic zones due to averaging of water stress values for the whole region.
  • The dataset was created to show water stress based on human use and does not take into consideration government policy, water quality, or investments in water availability solutions.
  • Transboundary rivers and lakes were split and an attempt was made to not double count them. It is likely that these efforts did not meet the goal with complete accuracy and some error might be present for these areas.

Suggested citation

Gassert, F., P. Reig, T. Luo, and A. Maddocks. 2013. “Aqueduct Country and River Basin Rankings: A Weighted Aggregation of Spatially Distinct Hydrological Indicators.” Working paper, November. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. Available online at http://wri.org/publication/aqueduct-country-river-basin-rankings. Accessed through Resource Watch, (date).http://www.resourcewatch.org.


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