PerspectiveGeology

Measuring Earth's rivers

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Science  10 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6402, pp. 546-547
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau3842

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Summary

A recent communication to corporate leaders warned that “Water is connected to every global risk we face” (1). For the past 7 years, water crises have ranked among the top five global risks according to the World Economic Forum (2). The reason for this concern is that water is linked to environmental, societal, and economic risks—from biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse to food crises, and from failures of urban planning to energy price shocks. Mitigating water-related risks to humans and ecosystems requires reliable accounting of freshwater resources. An essential first step is knowing where to find Earth's fresh water. On page 585 of this issue, Allen and Pavelsky (3) make an important step in this direction by improving estimates of the global surface area of rivers using satellite observations.