Sustainability of global water use: Past reconstruction and future projections

Yoshihide Wada, Marc F.P. Bierkens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

306 Scopus citations


Overuse of surface water and an increasing reliance on nonrenewable groundwater resources have been reported over various regions of the world, casting significant doubt on the sustainable water supply and food production met by irrigation. To assess the limitations of global water resources, numerous indicators have been developed, but they rarely consider nonrenewable water use. In addition, surface water over-abstraction is rarely assessed in the context of human and environmental water needs. Here, we perform a transient assessment of global water use over the historical period 1960-2010 as well as the future projections of 2011-2099, using a newly developed indicator: the blue water sustainability index (BlWSI). The BlWSI incorporates both nonrenewable groundwater use and nonsustainable water use that compromises environmental flow requirements. Our results reveal an increasing trend of water consumed from nonsustainable surface water and groundwater resources over the historical period (∼30%), and this increase is projected to continue further towards the end of this century (∼40%). The global amount of nonsustainable water consumption has been increasing especially since the late 1990s, despite a wetter climate and increasing water availability during this period. The BlWSI is the first tool suitable for consistently evaluating the renewability and degradation of surface water and groundwater resources as a result of human water over-abstraction.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainability of global water use: Past reconstruction and future projections'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this