New study assesses impact of pollution on future water scarcity

© Ivan Bandura / unsplash

A global assessment of future clean water quantity has found that three billion people may face water scarcity in 2050 due to pollution.

Researchers of the paper published in Nature Communications included the impact of nitrogen pollution on traditional water quantity assessments by integrating land-system, hydrological and water quality models to the potential prognosis of over 10,000 river basins across the globe. They found that nitrogen pollution impacts water scarcity in over 2000 sub-basins worldwide, with projected scenarios increasing to 3061 sub-basins by 2050.

The study focused on future water scarcity based on nitrogen pollution in rivers under climate and socio-economic scenarios, including land-use change, irrigation, and dam constructions and how these directly affect the hydrological cycle by altering the timing and magnitude of water discharge.

The study combined the MARINA-Nutrients (Model to Assess River Inputs of pollutaNts to seAs), MAgPIE (Model of Agricultural Production and its Impact on the Environment), and VIC (Variable Infiltration Capacity) models into an integrated modelling framework to calculate the indicators for ‘clean-water scarcity’ under three scenarios assuming different storylines of climate change and socio-economic activities that affect water scarcity.

The analysis has the potential to contribute to proactive water management strategies for sub-basins where water scarcity will be potentially high in the future. •