Over the past 50 years, human water use has more than doubled and affected streamflow over various regions of the world. However, it remains unclear to what degree human water consumption intensifies hydrological drought (the occurrence of anomalously low streamflow). Here, we quantify over the period 1960-2010 the impact of human water consumption on the intensity and frequency of hydrological drought worldwide. The results show that human water consumption substantially reduced local and downstream streamflow over Europe, North America and Asia, and subsequently intensified the magnitude of hydrological droughts by 10-500%, occurring during nation-and continent-wide drought events. Also, human water consumption alone increased global drought frequency by 27 (+/- 6)%. The intensification of drought frequency is most severe over Asia (35 +/- 7%), but also substantial over North America (25 +/- 6%) and Europe (20 +/- 5%). Importantly, the severe drought conditions are driven primarily by human water consumption over many parts of these regions. Irrigation is responsible for the intensification of hydrological droughts over the western and central US, southern Europe and Asia, whereas the impact of industrial and households' consumption on the intensification is considerably larger over the eastern US and western and central Europe. Our findings reveal that human water consumption is one of the more important mechanisms intensifying hydrological drought, and is likely to remain as a major factor affecting drought intensity and frequency in the coming decades.
AbstractWater consumption is perhaps the main process governing water distribution systems. Because of its uncertain nature, water consumption should be modeled as a stochastic process or characterized using statistical tools. This paper presents a description of water consumption using statistics as the mean, variance, and correlation. The analytical equations expressing the dependency of these statistics on the number of served users, observation time, and sampling rate, namely, the scaling laws, are theoretically derived and discussed. Real residential water consumption data are used to assess the validity of these theoretical scaling laws. The results show a good agreement between the scaling laws and scaling behavior of real data statistics. The scaling laws represent an innovative and powerful tool allowing inference of the statistical features of overall water consumption at each node of a network from the process that describes the demand of a user unit without loss of information about its variability and correlation structure. This will further allow the accurate simulation of overall nodal consumptions, reducing the computational time when modeling networks.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) has been used to assess freshwater-related impacts according to a new water footprint framework formalized in the ISO 14046 standard. To date, no consensus-based approach exists for applying this standard and results are not always comparable when different scarcity or stress indicators are used for characterization of impacts. This paper presents the outcome of a 2-year consensus building process by the Water Use in Life Cycle Assessment (WULCA), a working group of the UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, on a water scarcity midpoint method for use in LCA and for water scarcity footprint assessments.In the previous work, the question to be answered was identified and different expert workshops around the world led to three different proposals. After eliminating one proposal showing low relevance for the question to be answered, the remaining two were evaluated against four criteria: stakeholder acceptance, robustness with closed basins, main normative choice, and physical meaning.The recommended method, AWARE, is based on the quantification of the relative available water remaining per area once the demand of humans and aquatic ecosystems has been met, answering the question “What is the potential to deprive another user (human or ecosystem) when consuming water in this area?” The resulting characterization factor (CF) ranges between 0.1 and 100 and can be used to calculate water scarcity footprints as defined in the ISO standard.After 8 years of development on water use impact assessment methods, and 2 years of consensus building, this method represents the state of the art of the current knowledge on how to assess potential impacts from water use in LCA, assessing both human and ecosystem users’ potential deprivation, at the midpoint level, and provides a consensus-based methodology for the calculation of a water scarcity footprint as per ISO 14046.
Flow regulation and irrigation alter local freshwater conditions, but their global effects are highly uncertain. We investigated these global effects from 1901 to 2008, using hydroclimatic observations in 100 large hydrological basins. Globally, we find consistent and dominant effects of increasing relative evapotranspiration from both activities, and decreasing temporal runoff variability from flow regulation. The evapotranspiration effect increases the long-term average human consumption of fresh water by 3563 +/- 979 km(3)/year from 1901-1954 to 1955-2008. This increase raises a recent estimate of the current global water footprint of humanity by around 18%, to 10,688 +/- 979 km(3)/year. The results highlight the global impact of local water-use activities and call for their relevant account in Earth system modeling.
This report provides estimates of operational water withdrawal and water consumption factors for electricity generating technologies in the United States. Estimates of water factors were collected from published primary literature and were not modified except for unit conversions. The water factors presented may be useful in modeling and policy analyses where reliable power plant level data are not available. Major findings of the report include: water withdrawal and consumption factors vary greatly across and within fuel technologies, and water factors show greater agreement when organized according to cooling technologies as opposed to fuel technologies; a transition to a less carbon-intensive electricity sector could result in either an increase or a decrease in water use, depending on the choice of technologies and cooling systems employed; concentrating solar power technologies and coal facilities with carbon capture and sequestration capabilities have the highest water consumption values when using a recirculating cooling system; and non-thermal renewables, such as photovoltaics and wind, have the lowest water consumption factors. Improved power plant data and further studies into the water requirements of energy technologies in different climatic regions would facilitate greater resolution in analyses of water impacts of future energy and economic scenarios. This report provides the foundation for conducting water use impact assessments of the power sector while also identifying gaps in data that could guide future research.
To assess water savings in households using efficient devices and to understand how savings vary between different socio-demographic groups in the community, high resolution end use water consumption data is required (i.e. disaggregating water use for showers, toilets, clothes washers and garden irrigation etc.). This paper reports selected findings from the , which focussed on the relationship between a range of socio-demographic and household stock efficiency variables and water end use consumption levels. A mixed methods approach was executed using qualitative and quantitative data. The study provided evidence as to the potential savings derived from efficient appliances as well as socio-demographic clusters having higher water consumption across end uses. The payback period for some water efficient devices was also explored. The study has implications for urban water demand management planning and forecasting. ► Household water consumption compared in four suburbs of the Gold Coast, Australia. ► Main water uses are showers, clothes washers, faucet, toilets, irrigation. ► Paper tests influence of installing efficient devices and socio-demographic factors. ► Higher status group irrigates more; lower status groups use more in bath and shower. ► Savings from efficient shower 11.3 kL/person/yr; efficient clothes washer 14 kL/person/yr.
This study estimates the life cycle water consumption and wastewater generation impacts of a Marcellus shale gas well from its construction to end of life. Direct water consumption at the well site was assessed by analysis of data from approximately 500 individual well completion reports collected in 2010 by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Indirect water consumption for supply chain production at each life cycle stage of the well was estimated using the economic input-output life cycle assessment (EIO-LCA) method. Life cycle direct and indirect water quality pollution impacts were assessed and compared using the tool for the reduction and assessment of chemical and other environmental impacts (TRACI). Wastewater treatment cost was proposed as an additional indicator for water quality pollution impacts from shale gas well wastewater. Four water management scenarios for Marcellus shale well wastewater were assessed: current conditions in Pennsylvania; complete discharge; direct reuse and desalination; and complete desalination. The results show that under the current conditions, an average Marcellus shale gas well consumes 20 000 m(3) (with a range from 6700 to 33 000 m(3)) of freshwater per well over its life cycle excluding final gas utilization, with 65% direct water consumption at the well site and 35% indirect water consumption across the supply chain production. If all flowback and produced water is released into the environment without treatment, direct wastewater from a Marcellus shale gas well is estimated to have 300-3000 kg N-eq eutrophication potential, 900-23 000 kg 2,4D-eq freshwater ecotoxicity potential, 0-370 kg benzene-eq carcinogenic potential, and 2800-71 000 MT toluene-eq noncarcinogenic potential. The potential toxicity of the chemicals in the wastewater from the well site exceeds those associated with supply chain production, except for carcinogenic effects. If all the Marcellus shale well wastewater is treated to surface discharge standards by desalination, $59 000-270 000 per well would be required. The life cycle study results indicate that when gas end use is not considered hydraulic fracturing is the largest contributor to the life cycle water impacts of a Marcellus shale gas well.
Producing energy resources requires significant quantities of fresh water. As an energy sector changes or expands, the mix of technologies deployed to produce fuels and electricity determines the associated burden on regional water resources. Many reports have identified the water consumption of various energy production technologies. This paper synthesizes and expands upon this previous work by exploring the geographic distribution of water use by national energy portfolios. By defining and calculating an indicator to compare the water consumption of energy production for over 150 countries, we estimate that approximately 52 billion cubic meters of fresh water is consumed annually for global energy production. Further, in consolidating the data, it became clear that both the quality of the data and global reporting standards should be improved to track this important variable at the global scale. By introducing a consistent indicator to empirically assess coupled water-energy systems, it is hoped that this research will provide greater visibility into the magnitude of water use for energy production at the national and global scales.
Within the research field of urban water demand management, understanding the link between environmental and water conservation attitudes and observed end use water consumption has been limited. Through a mixed method research design incorporating field-based smart metering technology and questionnaire surveys, this paper reveals the relationship between environmental and water conservation attitudes and a domestic water end use break down for 132 detached households located in Gold Coast city, Australia. Using confirmatory factor analysis, attitudinal factors were developed and refined; households were then categorised based on these factors through cluster analysis technique. Results indicated that residents with very positive environmental and water conservation attitudes consumed significantly less water in total and across the behaviourally influenced end uses of shower, clothes washer, irrigation and tap, than those with moderately positive attitudinal concern. The paper concluded with implications for urban water demand management planning, policy and practice.
Providing the sustainable development goals (SDGs) water, food and energy security to cities relies strongly on resource use outside city borders. Many modern cities have recently invested in a sustainable urban water system, and score high in international city rankings regarding water management and direct urban water use. However, these rankings generally neglect external resource use for cities. Here we quantify the water resources related to food consumption in thirteen cities located in Mediterranean countries, by means of the water footprint (WF) concept. These WFs amount from 3277 l per capita per day (l/cap/d) to 5789 l/cap/d. These amounts are about thirty times higher than their direct urban water use. We additionally analyse the WF of three diet scenarios, based upon a Mediterranean dietary pattern. Many authors identify the Mediterranean diet as cultural heritage, being beneficial for human health and a model for a sustainable food system. The first diet scenario, a healthy Mediterranean diet including meat, leads to WF reductions of − 19% to − 43%. The second diet scenario (pesco-vegetarian), leads to WF reductions of − 28% to − 52%. The third diet scenario (vegetarian), leads to WF reductions of − 30% to − 53%. In other words, if urban citizens want to save water, they need to look at their diets.