Water Stress

As water use increases, it becomes more difficult to access the resource sustainably. Water users need to handle conflict or cooperation, as well as avoiding breaching ‘planetary boundaries’, and eating into ‘environmental flow requirements’.

Water Shortage

Whether there is insufficient water to meet human needs is driven by population, but also depends on ‘needs’ vs. ‘wants’, what water sources are accessible, and whether needs can be met in other ways. Human water needs include water supply security, food security, minimum water levels, minimum water quality and maintaining ecosystem services.

Altered flows

Human water use involves changes to natural patterns of runoff and river discharge, through water withdrawals, consumption and return flows, land use change, irrigation, and inter-basin water transfers.

Sharing water

When local water sources can’t satisfy needs, a common solution is to look elsewhere. A region becomes dependent on upstream water inflows or on imports of “virtual water”. Water allocation decides who gets what.

Possible futures

What should you do? There are a broad range of actions that can alleviate water scarcity. There is no such thing as a free lunch, there will always be flow-on consequences. When everything is changing, it’s important to think about what lines you should avoid crossing.

Explore the effect of a range of actions on scarcity in future!

Research & Data

Publication list: Analyses in the atlas are based on published research. Brief comments are given for each water scarcity related publication describing how it connects with the themes presented in the atlas

Data: all data and analyses in the atlas are open access and open source. All data and code are listed here. Alternatively, data can be downloaded from each page.


Keys, P.W., Wang-Erlandsson, L., Gordon, L.J. PLoS ONE

Wang-Erlandsson, L., Bastiaanssen, W.G.M., Gao, H., Jägermeyr, J., Senay, G.B., Van Dijk, A.I.J.M., Guerschman, J.P., Keys, P.W., Gordon, L.J., Savenije, H.H.G. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences

Wang-Erlandsson, L., Fetzer, I., Keys, P.W., Van Der Ent, R.J., Savenije, H.H.G., Gordon, L.J. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences

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Vacancies for ambitious PhDs & postdocs in the EARTH@LTERNATIVES project. Keywords: land | water | food | energy | sustainability | resource efficiency | equity | resilience

PhDs: https://www.utwente.nl/en/organization/careers/!/915549/phd-positions-in-the-earthlternatives-project-on-sustainable-land-and-water-use-for-food-and-energy
Postdocs: https://www.utwente.nl/en/organization/careers/!/42450/postdoc-positions-in-the-earthlternatives-project-on-sustainable-land-and-water-use-for-food-and-energy

"#WaterStewardship is too important to be a competitive area." The AWS Standard was designed as a common framework for water stewards to talk to each other and take action around a shared understanding of data, challenges and goals. We can learn from and support each other. Join. https://twitter.com/NestleWatersHQ/status/1107975002513649664

See how @weap21 can be use as a #game to support #Sustainable #water management @MEscobar_Agua https://twitter.com/SEIresearch/status/1108865974986555392

Happy #WorldWaterDay! We're thrilled to be launching the AWS Standard 2.0 today. It's been updated to include #SDG6 to make sure we #LeaveNoOneBehind and makes it easier to implement #WaterStewardship. Download your copy now! https://a4ws.org/the-aws-standard-2-0/

On the World Water Day, IIASA Water Program can only iterate the importance of accessing water demand and availability. Our Community Water Model https://bit.ly/2ULtCCl evaluates trade off in the most cost-effective way. Learn about the program https://bit.ly/2YbICeX