Water management: upstream-downstream linkages

15 June 2017

A study by hydrologist Ted Veldkamp and colleagues shows how human interventions to manage water resources, such as reservoirs, dams, and irrigation measures, have increased water availability, but have also swept water scarcity problems downstream.

Global / local

The new study is one of the first to provide a global accounting of regional and local water impacts, taking into account seasonal changes and different types of intervention, including water withdrawals, reservoir regulation, land-use change, and irrigation. The researchers examined the evolution of water availability, demand, and scarcity globally from 1971 to 2010. They also highlighted the separate impact of climate change and human interventions.

Key message

“The key message from this work is that people need to think about the upstream-downstream linkages: what will the impacts be of the choices they make? You need to have a good overview of all the consequences, not just the local impacts,” says Veldkamp. 

Ted Veldkamp is hydrologist at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) and part of Amsterdam Water Science. She is also guest researcher at IIASA

Publication details

T.I.E. Veldkamp, Y. Wada, J.C.J.H. Aerts, P. Döll, S. N. Gosling, J. Liu, Y. Masaki, T. Oki, S. Ostberg, Y. Pokhrel, Y. Satoh, H. Kim & P. J. Ward: 'Water scarcity hotspots travel downstream due to human interventions in the 20th and 21st century' (15 June 2017 in Nature Communications). Doi: 10.1038/ncomms15697 

Vrij Universiteit Amsterdam

Published by  IBED Water