Washington DC: It seems like the largest continent on Earth is running out of water as a new study has revealed that economic and population growth on top of climate change could put a big swath of Asia at a "high risk of severe water stress" by the year 2050.
The study by MIT scientists deploys detailed modeling to produce what the researchers believe is a full range of scenarios involving water availability and use in the future.
Having run a large number of simulations of future scenarios, the researchers find that the median amounts of projected growth and climate change in the next 35 years in Asia would lead to about 1 billion more people becoming "water-stressed" compared to today.
And while climate change is expected to have serious effects on the water supply in many parts of the world, the study underscores the extent to which industrial expansion and population growth may by themselves exacerbate water-access problems.
Co-author Adam Schlosser "It's not just a climate change issue. We simply cannot ignore that economic and population growth in society can have a very strong influence on our demand for resources and how we manage them. And climate, on top of that, can lead to substantial magnifications to those stresses."
Lead author is Charles Fant said that for China, it looks like industrial growth has the greatest impact as people get wealthier. In India, population growth has a huge effect. It varies by region.
The researchers also emphasize that evaluating the future of any area's water supply is not as simple as adding the effects of economic growth and climate change, and it depends on the networked water supply into and out of that area. The model uses a network of water basins and as Schlosser notes, "What happens upstream affects downstream basins." If climate change lowers the amount of rainfall near upstream basins while the population grows everywhere, then basins farther away from the initial water shortage would be affected more acutely.
"The emphasis in this work was to consider the whole range of plausible outcomes," Schlosser says. "We consider this an important step in our ability to identify the sources of changing risk and large-scale solutions to risk reduction."
The study appears in PLOS ONE.