Human Water Use Impacts on the Strength of the Continental Sink for Atmospheric Water

Jessica Keune, Mauro Sulis, Stefan Kollet, Stefan Siebert, Yoshihide Wada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


In the hydrologic cycle, continental landmasses constitute a sink for atmospheric moisture as annual terrestrial precipitation commonly exceeds evapotranspiration. Simultaneously, humans intervene in the hydrologic cycle and pump groundwater to sustain, for example, drinking water and food production. Here we use a coupled groundwater-to-atmosphere modeling platform, set up over the European continent, to study the influence of groundwater pumping and irrigation on the net atmospheric moisture import of the continental landmasses, which defines the strength of the continental sink. Water use scenarios are constructed to account for uncertainties of atmospheric feedback during the heatwave year 2003. We find that human water use induces groundwater-to-atmosphere feedback, which potentially weaken the continental sink over arid watersheds in southern Europe. This feedback is linked to groundwater storage, which suggests that atmospheric feedbacks to human water use may contribute to drying of watersheds, thereby raising water resources and socio-economic concerns beyond local sustainability considerations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4068-4076
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 16 2018
Externally publishedYes

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


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