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Global estimates of water withdrawals and availability under current and future “business-as-usual” conditions

Author: Joseph Alcamo, Petra Döll, Thomas Henrichs, Frank Kaspar, Bernhard Lehner, Thomas Rösch & Stefan Siebert
Organisation: Hydrological Sciences Journal, 48:3, 339-348
Publish Date: 2003
Country: Global
Sector: Environment
Method: Scenarios
Theme: Water
Type: Journal
Language: English
Tags: global water resources, hydrological model, integrated assessment, scenario analysis, water scarcity, water stress, water availability, water use, water withdrawals

New global models provide the opportunity to generate quantitative information about the world water situation. Here the WaterGAP 2 model is used to compute globally comprehensive estimates about water availability, water withdrawals, and other indicators on the river-basin scale. In applying the model to the current global water situation, it was found that about 24% of world river basin area has a withdrawal to availability ratio greater than 0.4, which some experts consider to be a rough indication of “severe water stress”; the impacts of this stress are expected to be stronger in developing countries than in industrialized ones. Under a “business-as-usual” scenario of continuing demographic, economic and technological trends up to 2025, water withdrawals are expected to stabilize or decrease in 41% of world river basin areas because of the saturation of water needs and improvement in water-use efficiency. Withdrawals grow elsewhere because population and economic growth will lead to rising demand for water, and this outweighs the assumed improvements in water-use efficiency. An uncertainty analysis showed that the uncertainty of these estimates is likely to have a strong geographic variability.
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