Indicator 49. Proportion of total water resources used (MDG Indicator)

Rationale and definition:

This MDG Indicator measures water stress and is defined as the total volume of groundwater and surface water abstracted (withdrawn) from their sources for human use ( sectors such as agriculture, industry, or municipal), expressed as a percentage of the total annual renewable water resources. This indicator shows whether a country abstracts more than its sustainable supply of freshwater resources. It can be used to track progress in the sustainable, integrated, and transparent management of water resources.


Since the indicator can be disaggregated to show the abstractions by sector (also showing use efficiencies for each sector), it can help identify and manage competing claims on water resources by different users, and in different geographical locations.1

Comments and limitations:

Many countries do not have good assessments of their aquifer volumes and recharge/discharge calculations, so important efforts will need to be made to improve data gathering. Ideally the indicator should be calculated for individual water basins since demand and supply need to be balanced at the basin level.

This indicator does not measure progress towards the important issue of increasing water-use efficiency. Public policies must try to address water stress and manage water resources sustainably, while satisfying all different demands.

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Administrative data.

Potential lead agency or agencies:

The FAO Aquastat and/or UNEP can help collect data at the country level.2

  1. See UN DESA (2007a).

  2. For more information see the FAO website.