Global water resources affected by human interventions and climate change

Submitted by Water Team on 30 April, 2014 - 18:10
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haddeland_2014_pnas_globalwater.pdf1 MBPreview

Humans directly change the dynamics of the water cycle through dams constructed for water storage, and through water withdrawals for industrial, agricultural, or domestic purposes. Climate change is expected to additionally affect water supply and demand. Here, analyses of climate change and direct human impacts on the terrestrial water cycle are presented and compared using a multimodel approach. Seven global hydrological models have been forced with multiple climate projections, and with and without taking into account impacts of human interventions such as dams and water withdrawals on the hydrological cycle. Model results are analyzed for different levels of global warming, allowing for analyses in line with temperature targets for climate change mitigation. The results indicate that direct human impacts on the water cycle in some regions, e.g., parts of Asia and in the western United States, are of the same order of magnitude, or even exceed impacts to be expected for moderate levels of global warming(+2 K). Despite some spread in model projections, irrigation water consumption is generally projected to increase with higher globalmean temperatures. Irrigation water scarcity is particularly large in parts of southern and eastern Asia, and is expected to become even larger in the future.