Perhaps you’re vaguely aware that the world is wracked by drinking water shortages. But as much as we hear that news these days, the problem always seems fairly abstract. Here’s an infographic that tries to solve that dilemma, by showing exactly why water supplies are falling in the world’s biggest cities.
The piece was designed by Florian Kräutli, for Visualizing.org‘s World Water Day Challenge, a $5,000 prize offered by GE for the best visualization of the world’s water woes. (The winner will be announced March 22.)
Kräutli’s infographic has two basic components. One is a bubble chart that shows water price increases in cities across the world. Once you click the individual cities, you get a newsfeed filled with relevant news reports, and you also see the exact price of water, how it’s risen in the last five years, and how that compares to population growth:
As you can see, the stats are almost hard to believe. For example, Chicago has seen a 54% rise in water costs, compared to a 2% rise in population. And Chicago is hardly unusual. Washington, D.C. has seen a 44% rise; New York, 46%. And all while population has remained basically flat. (In Honduras, one town has seen water use grow by 1,617%.) Those rising costs reflect both diminishing water supplies and an aging infrastructure stretched by overuse.
Given those shocking facts, what’s probably most surprising is how little attention our water woes receive. But switch up the chart a little, and you see why: Even though water costs are spiraling, water remains supremely cheap in the U.S. Here’s how much various cities pay in water, relative to GDP:
Here’s another instance when our domestic riches keep us blind to a growing problem worldwide.