EGU22-7874, updated on 28 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Geography of World’s Water Risks

Olli Varis, Matti Kummu, and Maija Taka
Olli Varis et al.
  • Aalto University, Water and Development Research Group, Built Environment, Finland (

Water risks are perennially identified among the planet’s most stunning and influential factors of insecurity and underdevelopment by institutions such as the United Nations and The World Economic Forum. Scholarly water risk literature, however, suffers from many inconsistencies and the alignment of basic water risk concepts with key policy protocols such as those of the United Nations Post-2015 Agenda is not mature. Therefore, macro-level understanding of world’s water risks is subjected to inconsistencies. We analyze a set of water risks with a global-scale interest, namely the 13 water risks of the Aqueduct data product. First, their statistical structure is analyzed, grouping them into clusters. Second, a new classification of water risks is produced and used in a global mapping analysis of how the water risks manifest across the latitudes, including their relation to climatic zones, population density and socioeconomic development. This is done by adopting the Sendai framework’s hazard-exposure-vulnerability risk concept. The results reveal the importance of distinguishing clearly between water hazards and water risks and specifying (usually situation-specific) relevant components of exposure and vulnerability that link those. Aqueduct, for instance, uses the word risk in many instances that are factually hazards, and a similar unambiguity is present very widely in water literature. The most remarkable geographic pattern that we detected is the strong dependency of water hazards on latitudes; those related to variability being fiercest along the tropics, and those to infrastructure centering around the equator. Many chronic hazards are most pronounced in crowded latitudes, whereas those related to hydrological extremes have similarities with the patterns of variability related hazards. Besides detecting these global hotspots, our study underlines the importance of clarifying and systematizing the use of concepts of water risks, water scarcity, water security and others, and harmonizing their use to policy protocols such as those of the United Nations. Due to the underlying importance of water risks, their interrelations, and unveiled geographic patterns, this is essential in improving the scientific and policy-related understanding, and the consequent reduction, of the planet’s water risks.

How to cite: Varis, O., Kummu, M., and Taka, M.: Geography of World’s Water Risks, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-7874,, 2022.