Water scarcity assessments in the past, present, and future

Junguo Liu, Hong Yang, Simon N. Gosling, Matti Kummu, Martina Flörke, Stephan Pfister, Naota Hanasaki, Yoshihide Wada, Xinxin Zhang, Chunmiao Zheng, Joseph Alcamo, Taikan Oki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

581 Scopus citations


Water scarcity has become a major constraint to socio-economic development and a threat to livelihood in increasing parts of the world. Since the late 1980s, water scarcity research has attracted much political and public attention. We here review a variety of indicators that have been developed to capture different characteristics of water scarcity. Population, water availability, and water use are the key elements of these indicators. Most of the progress made in the last few decades has been on the quantification of water availability and use by applying spatially explicit models. However, challenges remain on appropriate incorporation of green water (soil moisture), water quality, environmental flow requirements, globalization, and virtual water trade in water scarcity assessment. Meanwhile, inter- and intra-annual variability of water availability and use also calls for assessing the temporal dimension of water scarcity. It requires concerted efforts of hydrologists, economists, social scientists, and environmental scientists to develop integrated approaches to capture the multi-faceted nature of water scarcity.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-559
Number of pages15
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


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