Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Environmental Analysis
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

New Study of Global Freshwater Scarcity

Published: Thursday, March 01, 2012
Last Updated: Thursday, March 01, 2012
Bookmark and Share
A new report published in the journal PLoS ONE, analyzing water consumption in 405 river basins around the world, found that water scarcity impacts at least 2.7 billion people for at least one month each year.

"Freshwater is a scarce resource; its annual availability is limited and demand is growing," said Arjen Hoekstra, professor in water management at the University of Twente and lead author of the report, Global Monthly Water Scarcity: Blue Water Footprints versus Blue Water Availability.

Hoekstra continued, "There are many places in the world where serious water depletion takes place: rivers running dry and dropping lake and groundwater levels."

The new assessment of global water scarcity tracked month-to-month variability in water flows and accounted for the flows needed to sustain critical ecological functions.

Through detailed analysis of the total water consumption, or depletion, rather than water withdrawals, the study highlights how the water used to grow crops, sustain industry and provide drinking water has in many places exceeded sustainable levels of water use.

Ninety-two percent of humanity's total water footprint is for agriculture, and irrigated agriculture depletes more water than cities and industries.

Study co-author Brian Richter, Director of The Nature Conservancy's Global Freshwater Program, explained, "Cities use more water than crops on a per-area basis, but it's important to note that irrigated agriculture occupies four times as much land as cities do. We need to help farmers implement state-of-the-science irrigation methods and improve the productivity of rain-fed farms as soon as possible. We are going to have to produce more food with less water."

Researchers from the University of Twente, Water Footprint Network, The Nature Conservancy and WWF studied river flows in 405 river basins between 1996-2005.

Their analysis showed that 201 river basins supporting 2.67 billion people experienced severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.

"In places with multiple months of scarcity, they are likely experiencing serious competition for water," said Richter, "and during droughts they'll have economic impacts in agriculture, power production or other industries."

"This assessment gives a more detailed and complete view of the relationship between the water footprint - the amount of water consumed in the production of goods and services - and the growing problems of water scarcity and the resulting environmental, social and economic losses," said Ruth Mathews, Executive Director of the Water Footprint Network.

Mathews continued, "Through cooperation between governments, investors, companies, farmers and environmental organizations, we can take direct action to improve the sustainability, efficiency and equitability of water use, ensuring that we can feed people and sustain healthy ecosystems in the future."

Study co-author Ashok Chapagain, Senior Water Advisor at WWF-UK, highlighted the importance of this work to the global conservation targets of WWF.

"Annual averages can mask what is really happening in a basin. Visualizing water scarcity month-by-month will help guide water allocations so as to meet social and economic demands, and the needs of rivers themselves."

The levels of water scarcity estimated in the report correspond strongly with documented ecological declines and socio-economic disruption in some of the world's most heavily used river basins.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
Safer, Faster Way To Remove Pollutants From Water
Using nanoparticles filled with enzymes proves more effective than current methods.
Low Impact Fracking Fluid on Top at IChemE Global Awards
A novel fracturing fluid designed to make fracking greener.
Marine Invasive Species May Benefit From Rising CO2 Levels
Ocean acidification may well be helping invasive species of algae, jellyfish, crabs and shellfish to move to new areas of the planet with damaging consequences, according to the findings of a new report.
Game for Climate Adaptation
MIT-led project shows a new method to help communities manage climate risks.
Tufts Chemist Discovers Way to Isolate Single-crystal Ice Surfaces
Promises insights into climate, environment and age-old riddles, such as why no two snowflakes are alike.
Potential Indirect Effects of Humans on Water Quality
Newly studied class of water contaminants occur naturally, but are more prevalent in populated areas.
Rapid Method for Water, Air and Soil Pathogen Screening
Researchers at BGU and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a highly sensitive, cost-effective technology for rapid bacterial pathogen screening of air, soil, water, and agricultural produce in as little as 24 hours.
First Results Describing Sick Sea Star Immune Response
Though millions of sea stars along the West Coast have perished in the past several years from an apparent wasting disease, scientists still don’t know why.
Microbe Sleuth
Tanja Bosak examines how life and the Earth evolved in tandem during their early history together.
The Age of Humans Controlling Microbes
Engineered bacteria could soon be used to detect environmental toxins, treat diseases, and sustainably produce chemicals and fuels.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos