The Affordability of Water Around the World

Written by Carly Hallman

How much does drinking water cost around the world, and how much does it cost depending on how much you make? We’ve created a map of the global water crisis, comparing the median household income in a country to its average cost of a 1.5-liter bottle of water. Facts about water tell us that, while it may not be precisely a one-for-one line between income and water cost, there seems to be at least some correlation, with outliers getting a great deal of scrutiny.

What are the current costs of drinking water, and how available is it globally?

Affordability of Water Around the World

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The Affordability of Water Around the World

Country Median Household Income (in U.S. Dollars) Cost of Water (1.5-Liter Bottle) Water Cost Index
Luxembourg $52,493 $1.09 48,159
Norway $51,489 $3.42 15,055
Sweden $50,514 $2.19 23,066
Australia $46,555 $2.42 19,238
Denmark $44,360 $1.67 26,563
United States $43,585 $1.75 24,906
Canada $41,280 $1.85 22,314
South Korea $40,861 $1.19 34,337
Kuwait $40,854 $0.54 75,656
Netherlands $38,584 $1.13 34,145
New Zealand $35,562 $2.12 16,775
Hong Kong $35,443 $1.68 21,097
Austria $34,911 $0.82 42,574
Finland $34,615 $2.41 14,363
Germany $33,333 $0.69 48,309
Japan $33,822 $1.41 23,987
Taiwan $32,762 $1.02 32,120
Singapore $32,360 $1.40 23,114
United Kingdom $31,617 $1.74 18,171
France $31,112 $1.12 27,779
Israel $30,364 $1.19 25,516
Belgium $26,703 $1.23 21,710
Qatar $26,555 $0.58 45,784
Slovenia $25,969 $0.84 30,915
Ireland $25,085 $1.91 13,134
Saudi Arabia $24,980 $0.54 46,259
Bahrain $24,633 $1.06 23,239
Czech Republic $22,913 $0.65 35,251
Spain $21,959 $0.73 30,081
Malta $21,141 $0.85 24,872
Italy $20,085 $0.55 36,518
Cyprus $18,242 $1.13 16,143
Greece $17,777 $1.14 15,594
Slovakia $17,415 $0.81 21,500
Croatia $16,231 $1.10 14,755
Portugal $16,186 $0.71 22,797
Poland $15,338 $0.63 24,346
Belarus $15,085 $0.81 18,623
Argentina $14,432 $1.31 11,017
Lebanon $13,004 $0.84 15,481
Estonia $12,577 $1.02 12,330
Hungary $12,445 $0.44 28,284
Lithuania $12,375 $0.79 15,665
Iran $12,046 $0.39 30,887
Russia $11,724 $0.88 13,323
Mexico $11,680 $0.93 12,559
Montenegro $11,519 $0.69 16,694
Azerbaijan $11,446 $0.84 13,626
Venezuela $11,239 $2.52 4,460
Malaysia $11,207 $0.67 16,727
Ukraine $11,074 $0.62 17,861
Latvia $10,461 $0.90 11,623
Tunisia $8,966 $0.37 24,232
Turkey $8,955 $0.49 18,276
Costa Rica $8,923 $1.82 4,903
Serbia $8,921 $0.58 15,381
Macedonia $8,606 $0.53 16,238
Bulgaria $8,487 $0.60 14,145
Panama $8,356 $1.26 6,632
Jordan $8,276 $0.63 13,137
Syria $8,193 $0.42 19,507
Chile $8,098 $1.27 6,376
Uruguay $7,949 $1.30 6,115
Algeria $7,849 $0.35 22,426
Brazil $7,522 $0.93 8,088
Kazakhstan $7,492 $0.64 11,706
Bosnia $7,383 $0.74 9,977
Romania $7,322 $0.74 9,895
Albania $7,314 $0.68 10,756
Thailand $7,029 $0.49 14,345
Ecuador $6,858 $0.92 7,454
Mauritania $6,679 $0.77 8,674
Morocco $6,634 $0.72 9,214
Columbia $6,544 $1.20 5,453
Nicaragua $6,488 $1.16 5,593
Bolivia $6,399 $1.04 6,153
Libya $6,398 $0.43 14,879
Dominican Republic $6,302 $0.91 6,925
China $6,180 $0.64 9,656
Paraguay $6,179 $1.14 5,420
Mongolia $5,922 $0.54 10,967
South Africa $5,217 $1.10 4,743
Peru $5,161 $0.96 5,376
Tajikistan $5,137 $0.52 9,879
Iraq $4,917 $0.70 7,024
Honduras $4,848 $0.91 5,327
El Salvador $4,828 $0.85 5,680
Vietnam $4,783 $0.56 8,541
Guatemala $4,516 $0.97 4,656
Moldova $4,158 $0.58 7,169
Afghanistan $4,121 $0.46 8,959
Pakistan $4,060 $0.44 9,227
Kyrgyzstan $4,034 $0.48 8,404
Senegal $3,897 $1.06 3,676
Armenia $3,865 $0.64 6,039
Sudan $3,640 $0.60 6,067
Botswana $3,603 $1.38 2,611
Angola $3,534 $1.12 3,155
Laos $3,379 $0.66 5,120
Sri Lanka $3,242 $0.63 5,146
Yemen $3,178 $0.94 3,381
India $3,168 $0.36 8,800
Egypt $3,111 $0.43 7,235
Bangladesh $2,819 $0.34 8,291
Haiti $2,735 $1.25 2,188
Nepal $2,718 $0.34 7,994
Nigeria $2,667 $0.83 3,213
Georgia $2,591 $0.61 4,248
Philippines $2,401 $0.72 3,335
Cambodia $2,308 $0.65 3,551
Indonesia $2,199 $0.39 5,638
Tanzania $2,154 $0.87 2,476
Congo $2,106 $1.98 1,064
Cameroon $2,075 $1.20 1,729
Ghana $2,050 $1.18 1,737
Mali $1,983 $1.00 1,983
Kenya $1,870 $1.01 1,851
Uganda $1,775 $0.88 2,017
Zambia $1,501 $1.50 1,001
Rwanda $1,101 $0.71 1,551
Madagascar $1,013 $1.23 824
Liberia $781 $1.00 781
Burundi $673 $2.08 324
Gallup’s Country Data: Median household income (self-reported 2006-2012) Numbeo.com Cost of Living Aggregate by Nation Master: Cost of 1.5 litre bottle of water (2013)

Sources:

The majority of the world pays between a quarter and one dollar and fifty cents for a 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water (which is about a third of a gallon), but that price remains roughly the same regardless of the median income. So, when you consider the cost of living and how much of your pay goes toward water, there are some extreme disparities.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 844 million people do not have a safely managed drinking water service within a half-an-hour round trip. Some countries spend a fortune on drinking water, putting a strain on their entire economies. According to Water Aid, poor water causes the death of a child under the age of five about every two minutes. These are only some of the unsettling drinking water facts that contribute to the global water crisis; however, what’s even more disturbing is that these estimates for the average cost of water across the world are likely only going to skyrocket in the next few years.

What is water scarcity?

It’s defined as “the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of a region.” This can be in the form of a water shortage, water stress, or a water crisis. Water stress is the least urgent, involving difficulty in the hunt for new freshwater sources while current resources are being depleted without replenishing. The difference between scarcity and shortage is that shortages usually involve extreme conditions like droughts, floods, or pollution. A water crisis is the most extreme situation in which drinkable water is overall less than the demand, causing problems on a governmental level.

Because water scarcity in the US is almost never as extreme as some of the other countries on this list, the severity of the world water shortage is a bit harder to understand and convey. But it’s clear when you look at global water resources how bad the situation would be: The UN estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025. Water is going to start becoming unaffordable for millions of Americans, too, with the most stressed regions likely being traditionally arid and high-population regions like California.

What is the price of water, to us?

Unpolluted H2O is a need, rather than a desire, so it will likely skyrocket uncontrollably with the demand if the situation isn’t put under control, away from free-market influence. The EPA has done a lot to push down the pricing structures of water, and clean water services are created through charity work every day. On the other hand, the facts about drinking water are simply that about 700 million people are suffering today, and that number will be in the billions within about a decade.

These water statistics can be overwhelming and impossible to imagine. Global water issues are hard to grapple, so take some interpersonal examples closer to home. The clean drinking water situation in Flint, Michigan, has not gotten better.

The complexity of the issue is this: Water affordability might not change in this country, but water pollution statistics indicate that contaminants like lead, micro-plastics, and other chemicals will make our tap water nearly undrinkable. These are water crisis facts that are less obvious but much become more significant problems over time.

Hopefully, we can live in a world where more people, not only Americans, can access affordable water that’s clean and free of contaminants, and the average cost of water remains low. These water scarcity facts, though, make it hard to accept that as a future reality. Hopefully, we won’t live the line from the famous poem, “Water, water, everywhere; Nor any drop to drink.” Consider donating to water-centric causes, and learn how to test the water in your community.


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