Scale of global water crisis could be unknown due to inadequate metrics, study suggests #worldwaterday

Re-posted from UCL

A new study by UCL researchers exposes substantial limitations in the ability of current metrics to define ‘water scarcity’.

 

21 March 2017

A new study by UCL suggests the scale of the global water crisis could not be properly known at due to inadequacies with the current metrics used to measure it.

With today being World Water Day, the research, led by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and UCL Geography, exposes substantial limitations in the ability of current metrics to define ‘water scarcity’.

The report finds that the misrepresentation of freshwater resources and demand is particularly severe in low-income countries of the tropics where the consequences of water scarcity are projected to be most severe and where most of the global population now live. Simply put, the authors argue that we do not know the dimensions of the global water crisis.

Ensuring the availability of adequate quantities of freshwater to sustain the health and well-being of people and the ecosystems in which they live, remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. This question is reflected in UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.4 which seeks to reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

The authors call for a renewed debate about how best to measure ‘water scarcity’ and argue that it be redefined in terms of the freshwater storage required to address imbalances in freshwater supply and demand. Such an approach, they contend, would enable for the explicit consideration of groundwater, the world’s largest accessible store of freshwater which accounts for nearly 50% of all freshwater withdrawals globally.

Further the authors suggest that such a metric could be used pragmatically to explore a wide range of options for addressing freshwater storage requirements beyond dams alone that include use of renewable groundwater, soil water, and trading in virtual water.

Prof Richard Taylor, co-author of the paper says:

“How we understand water scarcity is strongly influenced by how we measure it. Grossly misrepresentative measures of water scarcity can identify scarcity where there is sufficient and sufficiency where there is scarcity. An improved measure of water scarcity would help to ensure that limited resources are better targeted to address where and when water-scarce conditions are identified.”

Click here to download the paper

Authors:

Simon Damkjaer, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources
Prof Richard Taylor, UCL Department of Geography

UPGro GroFutures: http://grofutures.org/

Photo: Irrigated maize crop supplied by groundwater in Zambia – Richard Taylor

10 things to know about groundwater: 5&6

Hidden Treasure: 10 reasons to know more about groundwater / 2 priorities to take seriously – briefing note

GROUNDWATER is the water stored in the pores and other openings in rocks below ground. It is a precious resource which must be safeguarded for the benefit of mankind.

5. Some of the groundwater recharge can be safely abstracted for human use

Even the smallest abstraction reduces the natural outflow by an equivalent amount, but a certain level of water abstraction may be judged to be acceptable.

6. Deciding how much groundwater is exploitable depends on many factors. Three main options exist:

  1. Sustainable yield
  2. Mixed strategy
  3. Mining

gw_strategies

What you can do:

Join the conversation through the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development community

10 things to know about groundwater: #2

Hidden Treasure: 10 reasons to know more about groundwater / 2 priorities to take seriously – briefing note

GROUNDWATER is the water stored in the pores and other openings in rocks below ground. It is a precious resource which must be safeguarded for the benefit of mankind.

recharge

2. However, from a water resource point of view, what matters is how much natural replenishment, or recharge, takes place

Recharge rates vary from a few to hundreds of millimetres per year. In dry regions recharge ranges from zero to a few mm per year.

In humid regions recharge rates represent a higher proportion of rainfall.

Find out more:

What you can do:

Join the conversation through the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development community: https://dgroups.org/RWSN/groundwater_rwsn

10 things to know about groundwater:#1

Hidden Treasure: 10 reasons to know more about groundwater / 2 priorities to take seriously – briefing note

GROUNDWATER is the water stored in the pores and other openings in rocks below ground. It is a precious resource which must be safeguarded for the benefit of mankind.

worldwater1

  1. Groundwater comprises 96% of all liquid fresh water on earth

Think of this groundwater stored beneath our feet as the savings in your bank, or the financial reserves of a nation.

Most (97%) of the world’s water is sea water. Two-thirds of the freshwater, is ice. Groundwater comprises 96% of the freshwater which we can utilise.

Find out more: