Water use scenarios highlight need for efficiency

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An influential initiative led by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria has reported progress with computer modelling-based future scenarios of water use. Announcing the progress, IIASA said the study showed domestic and industrial water demand are set to double by 2050 if current trends continued, and that water efficiency and water saving measures could stabilise demand.

The latest progress with the Water Futures and Scenarios initiative has been published in the journal Geoscientific Model Development. The WFaS initiative is significant because it is the first multi-model analysis of water use in the 21st Century, and it is designed to be consistent with climate projections published in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Three models are being applied in the WFaS initiative, and the projections from all three indicated significant increases in future industial and domestic water. However, there was also a high degree of variability across the models, and the published paper identifies important areas of progress for model development. The researchers pointed to the higher uncertainty of results in regions such as Africa where robust options are most needed, and to the value in separating out different industrial uses of water.

In further progress published in Environmental Research Letters, IIASA reported on use of the models to assess the water impacts of energy sector actions aimed at meeting a 2oC climate change target. With global freshwater consumption set to increase due to rapidly expanding energy demand, the researchers stated that changes in power plant cooling technology can considerably reduce global freshwater withdrawals and thermal pollution.


  • water resources