The Ripple Effect Of Changes In Global Water Demand

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Localised water shortages can have an impact on the global economy, changes in global demand for this precious resource can also generate both positive and negative ripple effects in river basins all over the world.

This is according to new research from Tufts University, revealing how global trade, population, climate change, technological growth and land management decisions can have an effect on regional river basins’ water scarcity, as well as the economic capacity to adapt to that scarcity.


The study, published in the Nature Communications journal, used a computer model to simulate thousands of scenarios to reflect a broad range of hydrologic, socioeconomic and climate conditions in 235 river basins to gain a greater understanding of how regional water scarcity can have far-reaching impacts on the global economy.


Effects can potentially include altering global trade and consumption patterns in industries such as transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and energy.


It was also found that adaptations to regional water scarcity can either lead to negative or positive economic outcomes, depending on water supply and demand factors such as municipal use, agricultural production and power generation.


The lower Colorado River basin, for example, sees the worst economic outcomes because of high population growth and limited groundwater availability, but this high population growth can also be beneficial under certain hydrologic conditions.


River basins are considered economically robust if they can adapt to drought, either through the use of alternative water sources or if economic activity is adjusted to limit usage.


If basins are unable to adapt or if water scarcity issues result in persistent economic decline, the loss in water basin adaptive capacity is described as having reached an economic tipping point.


Lead author of the study Flanner Dolan said: “We’re finding that water scarcity dynamics are more complicated than traditionally acknowledged. Changing water supply due to climate change is only part of the story. Regional water scarcity is also driven by changes in global water demands that are often hard to anticipate.”


This follows the publication of a new report presented to the Human Rights Council by UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd, suggesting that the global water crisis is, indeed, “getting worse”.


The expert explained that economic growth, inefficient use of water resources, poor planning, regulation and enforcement, extractivism, population growth and the climate emergency are all now contributing to the degradation of water-based ecosystems, as well as accelerating water pollution.


As such, we all now have a part to play in reducing our water usage and consumption, being more responsible for how we use water. This is true for both businesses and individuals alike, and if you’re keen for your company to become more water efficient now and into the future, get in touch with H2o Building Services today to see how we can make this a reality.