World water map to inform future freshwater conservation


03 May 2022
Utrecht University and National Geographic Society to map global freshwater reserves

UTRECHT water and drought experts Marc Bierkens and Niko Wanders have announced the launch of the World Water Map project, in cooperation with the National Geographic Society. 

Over the next five years they will be mapping the global water supplies and demands, and identifying 'hotspot' areas where water scarcity is most prevalent.

Marc and Niko will not only examine where the current 'hotspots' are located, but why those areas become vulnerable to water scarcity. If we know the why, we can also make better predictions about where and how new hotspots will emerge in the future, for example, in the sub-Sahara and metropolises in Asia, say the researchers.  

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They will use the latest techniques, models, and satellite data to expand current datasets and collect new data - providing views into the current state and potential fate of the world’s freshwater supply. For example, they will collect data on different factors affecting freshwater supply, including temperature, quality, and its use in households and in sectors such as agriculture and energy production. The results of the World Water Map project will be made available to policymakers to help inform future freshwater conservation decisions. 

Geographer Alex Tait of the National Geographic Society said: "Access to freshwater will be a defining issue for future generations. Understanding its sources and uses and how they change over time is critical to living sustainably on Earth, and is well-aligned with our mission: To illuminate and protect the wonder of our world.

"Our work with Utrecht University presents a unique opportunity to merge the power of science, education, and storytelling to inspire people to have a more sustainable relationship with freshwater and our planet."

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