3 years ago

Finding water scarcity amid abundance using human-natural system models [Sustainability Science]

Finding water scarcity amid abundance using human-natural system models [Sustainability Science]
Anne W. Nolin, Christian Langpap, Adell Amos, Philip W. Mote, Roy Haggerty, William K. Jaeger, Kathleen Moore, Cynthia L. Schwartz, David P. Turner, Daniel P. Bigelow, Desiree Tullos, David R. Conklin, Heejun Chang, Andrew J. Plantinga

Water scarcity afflicts societies worldwide. Anticipating water shortages is vital because of water’s indispensable role in social-ecological systems. But the challenge is daunting due to heterogeneity, feedbacks, and water’s spatial-temporal sequencing throughout such systems. Regional system models with sufficient detail can help address this challenge. In our study, a detailed coupled human–natural system model of one such region identifies how climate change and socioeconomic growth will alter the availability and use of water in coming decades. Results demonstrate how water scarcity varies greatly across small distances and brief time periods, even in basins where water may be relatively abundant overall. Some of these results were unexpected and may appear counterintuitive to some observers. Key determinants of water scarcity are found to be the cost of transporting and storing water, society’s institutions that circumscribe human choices, and the opportunity cost of water when alternative uses compete.

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