Processing Magazine

Researchers predict future of water stress, scarcity

January 17, 2014

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According to a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), by 2050 more than half of the world's population will be living in water-stressed regions.

With the help of a modeling tool they developed, the MIT researchers estimated that as many as 5 billion people (52% of the world's projected population of 9.7 billion) will be affected by water scarcity to at least some extent. The main factors that will contribute to the increased water stress are economic growth and rising populations in developing countries, while climate change is expected to play a crucial role for the problem in developed ones. As many as 80 percent of these people will be living in developing countries, researchers estimated.

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Using the MIT Integrated Global System Model Water Resource System (IGSM-WRS), the scientists analyzed the available water resources globally and compared those to the projected water needs. The model they came up with found that 37 countries fell into the category of extremely high water stress, which means they will use over 80 percent of the water available every year, according to the World Resources Institute's water stress rankings.

Adam Schlosser, lead author of the project, explained that similar analyses and models will be increasingly needed over the years to come as they will give a detailed picture of water needs worldwide and will provide valuable information to help governments deal with the factors that determine the level of water stress in the world.