Climate crisis: A world lacking water
Rising temperatures and extreme heat have left countries around the world parched. From China to California and Ethiopia to the UK, drought has taken hold. An overview in pictures.
Famine risk on the Horn of Africa
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are currently experiencing their worst drought in over 40 years after successive failed rainy seasons. The dry conditions have led to a severe food security issue in the region, with 22 million people at risk of starvation. More than 1 million people have been forced to leave their homes during the drought, which is expected to continue for months.
Yangtze River dries up
The riverbeds of the world's third-longest river are now exposed during China's record-breaking drought. Low water levels are having an impact on shipping and hydropower, with electricity from the Three Gorges Dam down 40% from last year. In an effort to limit electricity use, some shopping malls are reducing opening hours and factories are rationing power.
Rainfall a rarity in Iraq
Iraq, classified as particularly vulnerable to climate change and desertification, is battling its third successive year of drought. Vast areas of the country's southern marshlands, a UNESCO World Heritage site because of their biodiversity and ancient history, have now dried up. The ongoing drought has contributed to a 17% contraction of its agricultural sector over the past year.
Water restrictions in the United States
The Colorado River and its reservoirs run low after over two decades of drought — believed to be the worst in more than 1,000 years. The iconic river flows through the southwest of the United States and into Mexico, supplying millions of people and vast areas of farmland. Below-average rainfall has led to increasing restrictions on water use, including limiting outdoor watering in Los Angeles.
47% of Europe under threat of drought
Europe has seen intense heat waves, little rain and wildfires. Almost half of the continent is now threatened by drought — which experts believe could be the worst in 500 years. Major rivers including the Rhine, Po and Loire have dwindled, and low water levels have had an impact on the transport of goods and energy production. Dry, hot conditions have baked European farmland and wilted crops.
Hosepipe bans in UK
Several parts of England were officially moved into drought status in August after the country experienced its driest July since 1935. Authorities also registered Britain's hottest temperature ever on July 19, at 40.2 degrees Celsius (104.3 F) — and over a quarter of river flows were classified as exceptionally low. A number of hosepipe bans are being rolled out during August across the country.
Spain's prehistoric past uncovered
During Europe's summer of extreme weather, Spain has been particularly hard-hit by drought and heatwaves. The conditions have helped fuel the intense wildfires that have forced thousands of people to evacuate across the country and burned over 280,000 hectares (700,000 acres) of land. Receding water levels at one dam revealed a prehistoric stone circle — dubbed the "Spanish Stonehenge."
Adapting to a drier world
From Tokyo to Cape Town, many countries and cities are adapting to cope with increasingly dry and hot conditions. And the solutions don't necessarily need to be high-tech. In Senegal, farmers are planting circular gardens that allow roots to grow inward, trapping precious water in the region's rare downpours. In Chile and Morocco, people use nets to capture water from fog.
Cities fight to stay hydrated
After Cape Town, South Africa, narrowly avoided running out of water in 2018, the city introduced measures to combat drought. One solution has been to remove invasive species such as pine and eucalyptus, which soak up much more water than native plants like the fynbos shrub. The nature-based approach has helped save billions of liters of water.