SINGAPORE — Industrialization and urbanization across Asia have encouraged the misconception that they are the main gluttons of water. But the dominant force in Asian water consumption is agriculture.

Of the estimated 319 billion cubic meters of water used in Southeast Asia each year, 86 percent goes to agriculture, 8 percent to industry and just 6 percent to towns and cities. Agriculture’s share is even higher in South Asia (90 percent) and Central Asia (95 percent). It is bit lower (69 percent) in Japan and elsewhere in Northeast Asia. There, industrial water use accounts for 24 percent of the total and municipal use, 7 percent.

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