By 2050, Half of World’s Population Will Be “Water Stressed”

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Written By: Emma Websdale

Population growth, climate change, and increasing economic pressures on global water resources will result in 52% of the world’s population living in water-stressed areas by 2050, reveals research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

701219235Based on a new modeling software, which calculates the ability of global water resources to meet water demands through 2050, researchers from MIT estimate that approximately 5 billion people—over half of the world’s projected population—will live in areas where fresh water supplies are scarce.

The research also suggests that an additional 1 billion people, particularly in areas that include the Middle East, Northern Africa, and India, will be living in places where water demand exceeds surface-water supply.

Using their own, new, modeling software—the MIT Integrated Global System Model Water Resource System (IGSM-WRS)—researchers analyzed the effects of both climate change and socioeconomic changes on water availability in 282 large global basins. Results show that population and economic growth are mostly responsible for increased water stress.

The model also shows that the effects of climate change—changes in precipitation and other weather patterns—would limit the water available for irrigation, increasing the demand on world-wide water resources, particularly in developed countries.

“There is a growing need for modeling and analysis like this, which takes a comprehensive approach by studying the influence of both climatic and socioeconomic changes and their effects on both supply and demand projections”, says Adam Schlosser, lead author of the study. “Our results underscore this need.”

MIT Researchers say they plan to expand on their research by conducting a more detailed analysis on the future effects of climate change to water systems, paying particular attention to specific regions.