Domestic and industrial water uses of the past 60 years as a mirror of socio-economic development: A global simulation study
To enhance global water use assessment, the WaterGAP3 model was improved for back-calculating domestic, manufacturing and thermoelectric water uses until 1950 for 177 countries. Model simulations were carried-out on a national scale to estimate water withdrawals and consumption as well as cooling water required for industrial processes and electricity production. Additionally, the amount of treated and untreated wastewater as generated by the domestic and manufacturing sectors was modeled. In the view of data availability, model simulations are based on key socio-economic driving forces and thermal electricity production. Technological change rates were derived from statistical records in order to consider developments in water use efficiency, which turned out to have a crucial role in water use dynamics. Simulated domestic and industrial water uses increased from ca. 300 km3 in 1950 to 1345 km3 in 2010, 12% of which were consumed and 88% of which were discharged back into freshwater bodies. The amount of domestic and manufacturing wastewater increased considerably over the last decade, but only half of it was untreated. The downscaling of the untreated wastewater volume to river basin scale indicates a matter of concern in East and Southeast Asia, Northern Africa, and Eastern and Southern Europe. In order to reach the Millennium Development Goals, securing water supply and the reduction of untreated wastewater discharges should be amongst the priority actions to be undertaken. Population growth and increased prosperity have led to increasing water demands. However, societal and political transformation processes as well as policy regulations resulting in new water-saving technologies and improvements counteract this development by slowing down and even reducing global domestic and industrial water uses. âº Simulated 60-year time series of domestic, manufacturing, and thermoelectric water use. âº Global domestic water use has continuously increased driven by growing population and rising prosperity. âº Transformation processes and policy regulations have slowed down and reduced global domestic and industrial water uses. âº Our results imply that the maximum of global water withdrawals has not been reached yet. âº To reach the MDGs, secure water supply and reduction of untreated wastewater are among the most important actions to be undertaken.