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Projection of future world water resources under SRES scenarios: an integrated assessment

Shen, Yanjun, Oki, Taikan, Kanae, Shinjiro, Hanasaki, Naota, Utsumi, Nobuyuki, Kiguchi, Masashi
Hydrological sciences journal 2014 v.59 no.10 pp. 1775-1793
General Circulation Models, basins, emissions, global warming, governance, humans, people, population growth, society, socioeconomic development, water resources, water stress, water use efficiency
Changes in water resources availability, as affected by global climate warming, together with changes in water withdrawal, could influence the world water resources stress situation. In this study, we investigate how the world water resources situation will likely change under the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) by integrating water withdrawal projections. First, the potential changes in water resources availability are investigated by a multi-model analysis of the ensemble outputs of six general circulation models (GCMs) from organizations worldwide. The analysis suggests that, while climate warming might increase water resources availability to human society, there is a large discrepancy in the size of the water resource depending on the GCM used. Secondly, the changes in water-stressed basins and the number of people living in them are evaluated by two indices at the basin scale. The numbers were projected to increase in the future and possibly to be doubled in the 2050s for the three SRES scenarios A1b, A2 and B1. Finally, the relative impacts of population growth, water use change and climate warming on world water resources are investigated using the global highly water-stressed population as an overall indicator. The results suggest that population and socio-economic development are the major drivers of growing world water resources stress. Even though water availability was projected to increase under different warming scenarios, the reduction of world water stress is very limited. The principal alternative to sustainable governance of world water resources is to improve water-use efficiency globally by effectively reducing net water withdrawal.