Global monthly water stress: 1. Water balance and water availability

L. P.H. Van Beek, Yoshihide Wada, Marc F.P. Bierkens

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369 Scopus citations


Surface fresh water (i.e., blue water) is a vital and indispensable resource for human water use in the agricultural, industrial, and domestic sectors. In this paper, global water availability is calculated by forcing the global hydrological model PCR-GLOBWB with daily global meteorological fields for the period 1958-2001. To represent blue water availability, a prognostic reservoir operation scheme was included in order to produce monthly time series of global river discharge modulated by reservoir operations. To specify green water availability for irrigated areas, actual transpiration from the model was used. Thus, the computed water availability reflects the climatic variability over 1958-2001 and is contrasted against the monthly water demand using the year 2000 as a benchmark in the companion paper. As the water that is withdrawn to meet demand directly interferes with blue water availability along the drainage network, this paper evaluates model performance for three regimes reflecting different degrees of human interference: natural discharge, discharge regulated by reservoirs, and modified discharge. In the case of modified discharge, the net blue water demand for the year 2000 is subtracted directly from the regulated discharge, taking water demand equal to consumptive water use. Results show that model simulations of monthly river discharge compare well with observations from most of the large rivers. Exceptions are basins subject to large extractions for irrigation purposes, where simulated discharge exceeds the observations even when water demand is taken into account. Including the prognostic reservoir operation scheme results in mixed performance, with a poorer approximation of peak flows but with a marginally better simulation of low flows and persistence. A comparison of simulated actual evapotranspiration with that from the ERA-40 reanalysis as a proxy for observed rates shows similar patterns over nonirrigated areas but substantial deviations over major irrigated areas. As expected, assimilated actual evapotranspiration over these areas includes water from alternative sources, whereas the simulations with PCR-GLOBWB are limited by soil moisture, i.e., green water availability. On the basis of this evidence we conclude that the simulation provides adequate fields of water availability to assess water stress at the monthly scale, for which a separate validation is provided in the companion paper. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 18 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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