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Publication Date
31 August 2018

Regional Responses to Future, Demand-Driven Water Scarcity



This paper explores regional response strategies to potential water scarcity. Using a model of integrated human-earth system dynamics (GCAM), we test a wide range of alternate water demand scenarios to explore regional response strategies. We create a typology that categorizes countries and basins according to their responses in electricity and agriculture to potential water scarcity. Three different categories are found. First, little response is observed for many basins because water demands do not increase enough to create scarcity. Second, the primary response is adjustments in the electricity sector (e.g. most basins in Western Europe, the United States and China) with a transition to water-saving cooling systems but marginal impact on total power generation or the fuel mix. Third, where there is a lack of sufficient responding capacity in the electricity sector (e.g. Pakistan, Middle East and several basins in India), additional response occurs through reduced irrigation water withdrawals, either by switching from domestic production to imports or from irrigated agriculture to rain-fed production. The primary response mechanism to demand-based water scarcity for individual basins is quite robust across the range of water demand scenarios tested. The results and typology in this paper will be valuable for future research exploring global water scarcity due to both demand and supply drivers.

“Regional Responses To Future, Demand-Driven Water Scarcity”. 2018. Environmental Research Letters 13: 094006. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aad8f7.
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