March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination




THE CONTEXT: A recent report, published on February 6, 2024, in Nature Communications, sheds light on the impending water crisis, exacerbated by nitrogen pollution in rivers.


  • The study introduces the term “clean-water scarcity” to encompass both water quantity and quality concerns.
  • The findings reveal a more alarming scenario than previously estimated, with the number of sub-basins facing water scarcity anticipated to triple by 2050.
  • We will explore the key aspects of the report, emphasizing the global impact, the role of nitrogen pollution, and the urgent need for mitigation strategies.

Global Clean-Water Scarcity Scenario:

  • The study’s comprehensive assessment introduces the concept of “clean-water scarcity,” considering both water quantity and quality.
  • The global impact reveals that an additional 40 million square kilometers of river basin area and three billion more people may face water scarcity in 2050 than previously estimated.

Nitrogen Pollution’s Role:

  • Nitrogen pollution in rivers emerges as a significant contributor to clean-water scarcity.
  • The worst-case scenario projects sewage as the dominant source of nitrogen pollution due to rapid urbanization and inadequate wastewater treatment infrastructure.
  • In India and Africa, for instance, sewage is expected to surpass agriculture as the primary source of nitrogen pollution.

Projection for 2050:

  • Comparing clean-water scarcity assessments to traditional quantity-based assessments, the number of sub-basins facing severe scarcity is projected to potentially triple by 2050.
  • The global area and population affected by severe water scarcity may more than double, indicating a critical escalation of the crisis.

Water Scarcity and Quality Linkage:

  • In 2010, traditional quantity-based assessments identified 984 sub-basins as water scarce, while assessments incorporating quality factors revealed 2,517 sub-basins facing scarcity.
  • By 2050, this number is expected to increase to 3,061 sub-basins in the worst-case scenario, indicating the pivotal role of water pollution, especially nitrogen pollution, in exacerbating water scarcity.

Clean-Water Scarcity Hotspots:

  • Future clean-water scarcity hotspots are identified in China, India, Europe, North America, and potentially Central Africa.
  • Each region presents unique challenges requiring targeted solutions.
  • Urgent attention is needed to address water quality in future water management policies, aligning with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Urgency for Mitigation Strategies:

  • Mitigation strategies must prioritize addressing water pollution, particularly nitrogen pollution.
  • The study emphasizes the urgency of proactive measures to control nitrogen pollution as a challenging yet imperative aspect of future water management strategies.
  • This aligns with the global commitment to SDG 6, focusing on clean water and sanitation.

India’s Concerns and SDG Deviation:

  • In India, the State of India’s Environment Report 2023 indicates a concerning deviation from SDG 6 in 15 states.
  • The impact of climate change scenarios further accentuates the need for robust and immediate measures, emphasizing the critical linkage between water quality and scarcity.


  • The study underscores the looming global water crisis, with nitrogen pollution playing a pivotal role in exacerbating clean-water scarcity.
  • Urgent, targeted, and comprehensive mitigation strategies are imperative to address water quality concerns and align with global sustainability goals.
  • As the world faces this complex challenge, proactive measures become paramount to secure a sustainable and resilient water future.


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