Global analyses of drivers of water scarcity indicators in transboundary river basins

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School of Engineering | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2020-02-21
Degree programme
52 + app. 66
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 31/2020
Water scarcity management in the context of transboundary river basins is not limited to local water use and availability — upstream water demand and availability play an important role. The distinction between local and upstream water use and availability across countries sets transboundary water scarcity analysis apart from other water scarcity analyses. This dissertation aims to improve the general understanding of the causes of water scarcity in the transboundary context. A novel framework is developed to understand the evaluation of water scarcity, as well as downstream dependencies on upstream water resources, for global transboundary river basins. By applying the framework with existing datasets and water scarcity indicators, it was possible to identify transboundary water scarcity hotspots, the dominant factors behind the scarcity and the role of upstream water both historically and under future socio-economic and climate change conditions. This global work thus provides new insights for transboundary water management. Supported by global maps for this type of analysis for the first time, the thesis emphasizes a number of insights that are specifically relevant to the development and implementation of transboundary water scarcity adaptation strategies. One of the most important findings is that in the majority of cases, the down-stream water stress is mostly due to local "overuse" of water. In the context of securing water availability in the downstream parts of a basin, a critical point is passed when local water demand is higher than the threshold for the sub-basin in question to be self-sufficient with locally originated runoff. In many basins, nevertheless, upstream water use intensifies water scarcity. This is expected to be more significant in future scenarios, due to both local and upstream population growth and the associated increased water demand. Most importantly, the dissertation highlights that to make sound decisions for transboundary water, a well-rounded understanding of the water demand and availability in both local and upstream sub-basins is needed. Analyses of this type provide unprecedented opportunities for understanding the physical relationships within transboundary river basins at a global scale.
Supervising professor
Kummu, Matti, Assoc. Prof., Aalto University, Department of Built Environment, Finland
Thesis advisor
Guillaume, Joseph, Dr., Australian National University, Australia
water scarcity, scarcity analysis, water use
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Munia, H., Guillaume, J.H.A., Mirumachi, N., Porkka, M., Wada, Y., Kummu, M. Water stress in global transboundary river basins: significance of upstream water use on downstream stress. Environmental Research letters, 2016, 11(1), 014002.
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
    DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/1/014002 View at publisher
  • [Publication 2]: Munia, H., Guillaume, J.H.A., Mirumachi, N., Wada, Y. Kummu, M., 2018. How downstream sub-basins depend on upstream inflows to avoid scarcity: typology and global analysis of transboundary rivers, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 2018, 22(5), 2795-2809.
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
    DOI: 10.5194/hess-22-2795-2018 View at publisher
  • [Publication 3]: Munia, H., Guillaume, J.H.A., Veldkamp, T., Wada, Y., Virkki, V., Kummu, M.: Transboundary water scarcity and its drivers under climate change: a global study, Submitted to Earth’s Future on 17th July 2019 and subsequently accepted for peer review.