Water Scarcity: The Worst Places For Water Shortages Over The Next 20 Years

Graphic of a water droplet alongside the text "Water Scarcity: The Worst Places For Water Shortages Over The Next 20 Years"
Author: James Roberts
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Water is a huge part of our everyday life. We drink it, we wash with it, we flush it and so much more. But, with so many changes facing the world we live in today, it’s difficult to know how these will impact our future access to water. As bathroom usage, whether its sinking into a freestanding bath or using a wall hung toilet, and our hygiene rituals with them both contribute to water usage, we wanted to find out where will be the most water stressed areas in 20 years’ time.

Using the water risk atlas tool, we’ve pulled out the top places for water scarcity in the UK and Europe. So read on to find out which cities in the UK and beyond are going to experience the most pressure on their water supply systems, and how you can make a difference in the meantime, either through changing bathroom habits, or simply general water usage.

What is Water Stress?

Simply put, water stress is the deterioration of freshwater sources, referring to the likes of droughts, dry rivers, and more.

Because of growing global populations, alongside changing climate conditions and water-intensive processes in agriculture, by 2040, there will a surge in pressure on our water supply systems. And with the water we use being a finite resource, there are measures we clearly need to be taking to help avoid water shortages.

Why Will the World See Increases in Water Stress Levels?

Many things contribute towards water stress levels, but in recent years it’s largely been due to climate change and it’s subsequent impacts. Consistent increasing temperatures lead to reduced rainfall and drier climates where water demand stays relatively the same. So, when demand outgrows supply, it’s only to be expected that the world will see an increase in water stress levels.

UK Areas That Will See the Highest Increases By 2040

Our findings proved that certain areas in the UK would see high increases in water consumption by 2040, but which UK locations will see the highest increase?

Graphic image of a water scarcity map of the UK

London, Brighton, and Birmingham Will Be Severely Water Stressed By 2040

After Lancaster, London, Brighton and Hove, Birmingham and Leicester are all set to see ‘high’ (40-80%) water stress levels by 2040. This is probably due to their location, as cities in the South and South East of England are more likely to see a dramatic increase in their water stress levels. This is due to a combination of increasing populations, increasing developments and less rainfall generally in the South of England.

As a result, residents in the South of the UK could see a serious public water supply drought by 2040.

Cities That Could See Up To 40% Increase  

Major UK cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and Bristol were all rated ‘medium-high’ (20-40%), so residents need not worry as much as their southern counterparts, but that’s not to say there aren’t changes to be made.

Those living in Leeds, Glasgow, Sheffield, and Cardiff have less to worry about as predictions estimate they will see a lower increase in water stress than other UK cities (10-20%).

European Countries: Malta Takes the Top Spot

Graphic image of a water scarcity map of Europe

From our research, Malta came out as the top location in Europe which will see the highest increase in water stress, with an ‘extremely high’ (>80%) predicted increase. It is the only European country set to expect an ‘extremely high’ increase in its water stress levels. Just outside Europe, Turkey followed next, with a ‘high’ (40-80%) increase in water stress predictions. After this Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, and Italy, are all set to see an increase of 20-40% meaning residents could see shortages.

However, typically cooler countries such as Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway all have low estimated water stress. Obviously, the hotter countries are, the less supply there is due to lack of rainfall, and this will inevitably lead to higher pressure on supply systems, as proven by our findings.

Graphic image providing information and guidance about how to reduce water consumption

How to Reduce Water Usage

Bearing all that we’ve discussed in mind, if this issue is something that concerns you, or you just want to be more eco-friendly, then we have put together some handy bathroom tips that can help you get started. This is especially with the fact that bathrooms, along with kitchens, are often the most water intensive rooms in the house!

Shorter Showers

A long hot shower may be just what you need to clear away the cobwebs on a morning but cutting your shower time even by a small amount of time can make a big difference. Did you know that you use 2.5 gallons of water per minute when you shower? This doesn't just stop at using the shower, but also extends to avoiding turning the shower on and leaving it to get warm while doing other things, or using it when cleaning instead of reusing water and cleaning products used across other bathroom areas.

Stopping Leaks or Upgrading Brassware Like Shower Heads and Taps

Is your shower head up to scratch? Leaky taps and shower heads could mean you are wasting water each day without even knowing it. Changing shower heads and faucets can save up to 40% or 55% respectively.

Leaky brassware may not seem a big issue in the grand scheme but the constant drip-dripping but the water usage can soon tick up. While you may rush to find new brassware, it could be as quick as giving them a good cleaning. Bathroom taps, for instance, can have ceramic discs or washers that get clogged or dirty and need a quick clean out. Giving your brassware proper care and attention can help save water and even the expense of new bathroom items.

If you decide to upgrade then newer designs have “air pressurized in the water” to help give the impression of a more powerful shower without damaging the experience.

As well as this, upgrading your shower head to a low-flow version with high pressure can help. The benefits of this mean not compromising your existing shower, while saving water usage and saving money.

Stop Flushing Unnecessary Items Down the Toilet

Of course, when you go to the toilet, flushing is necessary. But often, you might use toilet paper to blow your nose while in the bathroom, and flush it down the toilet afterwards, instead of venturing to the bin and throwing it away. Without thinking about it, you’re then wasting water on something that could’ve been disposed of elsewhere, particularly if you’re using a dual flush system and pressing the ‘full flush’ button to get rid of whatever it is. Being more mindful of what you flush, and how you flush, can make a small difference.

Turn Off Your Taps When You Can

Product Lifestyle image of Roper Rhodes Scape Basin Mixer

It may seem obvious, but turning off your taps when you brush your teeth, while you’re washing or shaving your face, or even when you’re cleaning the sink can use a lot more water than you realise. In fact, it’s one of the biggest water wasters, so turning these off while doing household or beauty tasks can instantly help make a small difference.

Showers vs Baths

Doing your part to save water in the bathroom could be the difference between hopping in the shower or jumping in the bathtub. We know that luxury means being able to sink into a hot bath and while the time away. However, changing from baths to showers, whether standalone, over your tub, or a handset alongside your bath, significantly reduces your water usage.

A two or three minute shower will use a lot less water than a bath - especially if you turn the water off while you shampoo. A 20-minute shower will not - so aim for short showers.

You can save money and save the planet by upgrading your shower too.


Water stress is the amount of freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources. It is the ratio between total freshwater withdrawn by all major sectors and total renewable freshwater resources, after considering environmental flow requirements.

UK water stress data was gathered from the Aqueduct water risk atlas. This was done for a total of 84 locations across the UK. For these locations, the forecasted water stress was collected for the year 2040, assuming a "business as usual" forecast.

Graphic of a water droplet alongside the text "Water Scarcity: The Worst Places For Water Shortages Over The Next 20 Years"