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Publication Date
1 January 2014

Long-term Global Water Projections Using Six Socioeconomic Scenarios in an Integrated Assessment Modeling Framework



In this paper, we assess future water demands for the agricultural (irrigation and livestock), energy (electricity generation, primary energy production and processing), industrial (manufacturing and mining), and municipal sectors, by incorporating water demands into a technologically-detailed global integrated assessment model of energy, agriculture, and climate change — the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM). Base-year water demands – both gross withdrawals and net consumptive use – are assigned to specific modeled activities in a way that maximizes consistency between bottom-up estimates of water demand intensities of specific technologies and practices, and top-down regional and sectoral estimates of water use. The energy, industrial, and municipal sectors are represented in fourteen geopolitical regions, with the agricultural sector further disaggregated into as many as eighteen agro-ecological zones (AEZs) within each region. We assess future water demands representing six socioeconomic scenarios, with no constraints imposed by future water supplies. The scenarios observe increases in global water withdrawals from 3710 km3 year− 1 in 2005 to 6195–8690 km3 year− 1 in 2050, and to 4869–12,693 km3 year− 1 in 2095. Comparing the projected total regional water withdrawals to the historical supply of renewable freshwater, the Middle East exhibits the highest levels of water scarcity throughout the century, followed by India; water scarcity increases over time in both of these regions. In contrast, water scarcity improves in some regions with large base-year electric sector withdrawals, such as the USA and Canada, due to capital stock turnover and the almost complete phase-out of once-through flow cooling systems. The scenarios indicate that: 1) water is likely a limiting factor in meeting future water demands, 2) many regions can be expected to increase reliance on non-renewable groundwater, water reuse, and desalinated water, but they also highlight an important role for development and deployment of water conservation technologies and practices.

“Long-Term Global Water Projections Using Six Socioeconomic Scenarios In An Integrated Assessment Modeling Framework”. 2014. Technological Forecasting And Social Change 81: 205-226. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2013.05.006.
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