A new online mapping tool for monitoring global water resources will improve water-risk management by showing patterns of water stress, flooding, drought and areas of water access, its creators say.

The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, developed by environmental think-tank World Resources Institute (WRI) and an alliance of businesses and governments, can be customised by users to reflect a range of data with a few clicks of a computer mouse.

It combines 12 water-risk indicators to create maps showing where water problems might exist.

“Water – or the lack of it – is emerging as one of the defining challenges of the 21st century and it’s not just environmentalists who are saying so any longer,” said Betsy Otto, director of the Aqueduct project.

“The business community and world leaders are beginning to wake up to the problem.”