Global modeling of withdrawal, allocation and consumptive use of surface water and groundwater resources

Y. Wada, D. Wisser, M. F.P. Bierkens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

508 Scopus citations


To sustain growing food demand and increasing standard of living, global water withdrawal and consumptive water use have been increasing rapidly. To analyze the human perturbation on water resources consistently over large scales, a number of macro-scale hydrological models (MHMs) have been developed in recent decades. However, few models consider the interaction between terrestrial water fluxes, and human activities and associated water use, and even fewer models distinguish water use from surface water and groundwater resources. Here, we couple a global water demand model with a global hydrological model and dynamically simulate daily water withdrawal and consumptive water use over the period 1979-2010, using two re-analysis products: ERA-Interim and MERRA. We explicitly take into account the mutual feedback between supply and demand, and implement a newly developed water allocation scheme to distinguish surface water and groundwater use. Moreover, we include a new irrigation scheme, which works dynamically with a daily surface and soil water balance, and incorporate the newly available extensive Global Reservoir and Dams data set (GRanD). Simulated surface water and groundwater withdrawals generally show good agreement with reported national and subnational statistics. The results show a consistent increase in both surface water and groundwater use worldwide, with a more rapid increase in groundwater use since the 1990s. Human impacts on terrestrial water storage (TWS) signals are evident, altering the seasonal and interannual variability. This alteration is particularly large over heavily regulated basins such as the Colorado and the Columbia, and over the major irrigated basins such as the Mississippi, the Indus, and the Ganges. Including human water use and associated reservoir operations generally improves the correlation of simulated TWS anomalies with those of the GRACE observations. © 2013 Author(s) .
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-40
Number of pages26
JournalEarth System Dynamics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 14 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Generated from Scopus record by KAUST IRTS on 2023-09-18

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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