The baseline water stress (BWS) layer, developed as part of WRI's Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, measures the ratio of total water withdrawals relative to the annual available renewable surface water supplies. BWS serves as a good proxy for water-related challenges more broadly, given that areas of higher water stress will likely be subject to higher depletion of surface and groundwater resources and more competition amongst users, as well as the associated impacts on water quality and other ecosystem services. Watersheds with high baseline water stress may warrant greater need to take appropriate action to respond to watershed risks. A long time series of supply (1950–2010) was used to reduce the effect of multi-year climate cycles and ignore complexities of short-term water storage (e.g., dams, floodplains) for which global operational data are nonexistent. Baseline water stress thus measures chronic stress rather than drought stress. Watersheds with less than 0.012 m/m2 /year of withdrawal and 0.03 m/m2 /year of available blue water were masked as “arid and low water use” since watersheds with low values were more prone to error in the estimates of baseline water stress. Additionally, although current use in such catchments is low, any new withdrawals could easily push them into higher stress categories. For more information on this indicator and its development as part of the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, please visit:

Dataset Attributes


  • By on January 25, 2016
  • Updated 5 months ago

Related Datasets