Threats to Fresh Water Resources and Human Water

The project Threats to Fresh Water Resources and Human Water Security focuses on human water security

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This project focuses on human and ecosystem water security and is intended to improve current understanding of the geography of water-related ecosystem services, while accounting for both biophysical and economic controls on services and assessing how new management strategies can enhance the resilience of the global water system over a 100-year time horizon.

The project is an extension of work done by the Global Water Systems Project (GWSP), published in the journal nature in 2010 (Vorosmarty et. al., 2010). Several refinements and extensions are being to the original work, including mapping threats to human and ecosystem out into the future using scenarios developed within Water Futures and Solutions.

The scientists will formulate a series of future scenario projections of the stressors producing human water security threats and prompting engineering, economic response and/or governance interventions. The analysis will include sensitivity tests to identify which variables, parameters, and regions are most sensitive to the state of freshwater resources, which produce the greatest feedbacks, and which exhibit the most sensitive thresholds.

In 2014, WAT delivered finalized driver data, indicators and scenarios, quantified scenario projections of water availability, changes in irrigated areas and land use, and water demands. Human Water Security and downstream population served by areas with different incident threat scores were mapped.


A kickoff meeting took place in January 2013 at IIASA. At this meeting, the current IPPC AR5 scenario framework was adopted and a set of preliminary experiments was designed based on the scenarios. These experiments will produce a first set of global water services maps for human water security into the 21st century; these data would then be delimited by threats to the supporting water systems. The threat matrix is based initially on the original GWSP-Diversitas approach, refined by RCP and SSP-derived limits from the current generation of AR5 scenarios.

Meetings are planned with a 6-8 month frequency. The second meeting on first results of the threat mapping (human and ecosystem water security threats) and the steps forward took place in conjunction with the Global Water System Project Science Conference in Bonn in May 2014.


  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • City University New York (CUNY) & the Global Water Systems Project (GWSP)
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • University of Bonn, Center for Development Research
  • Griffith University, Australia

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Last edited: 02 September 2015


David Wiberg

Guest Research Scholar


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- ongoing till end 2015

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