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Increasing dependence of lowland populations on mountain water resources


Viviroli, Daniel; Kummu, Matti; Meybeck, Michel; Kallio, Marko; Wada, Yoshihide (2020). Increasing dependence of lowland populations on mountain water resources. Nature Sustainability, (3):917-928.

Abstract

Mountain areas provide disproportionally high runoff in many parts of the world, but their importance for water resources and food production has not been clarified from the viewpoint of the lowland areas downstream. Here we quantify the extent to which lowland inhabitants potentially depend on runoff contributions from mountain areas (39% of the global land mass). We show that ~1.5 billion people (24% of the world’s lowland population) are projected to depend critically on runoff contributions from mountains by the mid-twenty-first century under a ‘middle of the road’ scenario, compared with ~0.2 billion (7%) in the 1960s. This striking rise is mainly due to increased local water consumption in the lowlands, whereas changes in mountain and lowland runoff play only a minor role. We further show that one-third of the global lowland area equipped for irrigation is cur-rently located in regions that both depend heavily on runoff contributions from mountains and make unsustainable use of local blue water resources, a figure that is likely to rise to well over 50% in the coming decades. Our findings imply that mountain areas should receive particular attention in water resources management and underscore the protection they deserve in efforts towards sustainable development.

Abstract

Mountain areas provide disproportionally high runoff in many parts of the world, but their importance for water resources and food production has not been clarified from the viewpoint of the lowland areas downstream. Here we quantify the extent to which lowland inhabitants potentially depend on runoff contributions from mountain areas (39% of the global land mass). We show that ~1.5 billion people (24% of the world’s lowland population) are projected to depend critically on runoff contributions from mountains by the mid-twenty-first century under a ‘middle of the road’ scenario, compared with ~0.2 billion (7%) in the 1960s. This striking rise is mainly due to increased local water consumption in the lowlands, whereas changes in mountain and lowland runoff play only a minor role. We further show that one-third of the global lowland area equipped for irrigation is cur-rently located in regions that both depend heavily on runoff contributions from mountains and make unsustainable use of local blue water resources, a figure that is likely to rise to well over 50% in the coming decades. Our findings imply that mountain areas should receive particular attention in water resources management and underscore the protection they deserve in efforts towards sustainable development.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Global and Planetary Change
Life Sciences > Food Science
Social Sciences & Humanities > Geography, Planning and Development
Physical Sciences > Ecology
Physical Sciences > Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
Social Sciences & Humanities > Urban Studies
Physical Sciences > Nature and Landscape Conservation
Physical Sciences > Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
Language:English
Date:6 July 2020
Deposited On:03 Nov 2020 16:02
Last Modified:08 Nov 2020 08:59
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2398-9629
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0559-9

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