Determining regional limits and sectoral constraints for water use

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Publication details

Lissner, TK, Sullivan, CA, Reusser, DE & Kropp, JP 2014, 'Determining regional limits and sectoral constraints for water use', Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol. 18, pp. 4039-4052.

Article available on Open Access

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Water is an essential input to the majority of human activities. Often, access to sufficient water resources is limited by quality and infrastructure aspects, rather than by resource availability alone, and each activity has different requirements regarding the nature of these aspects. This paper develops an integrated approach to assess the adequacy of water resources for the three major water users: the domestic, agricultural and industrial sectors. Additionally, we include environmental water requirements. We first outline the main determinants of water adequacy for each sector. Subsequently, we present an integrated approach using fuzzy logic, which allows assessing sector-specific as well as overall water adequacy. We implement the approach in two case study settings to exemplify the main features of the approach. Using results from two climate models and two forcing RCPs (representative concentration pathways), as well as population projections, we further assess the impacts of climate change in combination with population growth on the adequacy of water resources. The results provide an important step forward in determining the most relevant factors, impeding adequate access to water, which remains an important challenge in many regions of the world. The methodology allows one to directly identify the factors that are most decisive in determining the adequacy of water in each region, pointing towards the most efficient intervention points to improve conditions. Our findings underline the fact that, in addition to water volumes, water quality is a limitation for all sectors and, especially for the environmental sector, high levels of pollution are a threat to water adequacy.