Local flow regulation and irrigation raise global human water consumption and footprint

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Science  04 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6265, pp. 1248-1251
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1010

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Local decisions with global consequences

Some estimates suggest that humanity has already exceeded our sustainable global water footprint: the balance between fresh water use and supply. It seems that the situation may be more unsustainable than we realize. Jaramillo and Destouni analyzed hydroclimatic data for 100 large basins dating back to 1901. Better accounting of local water use revealed larger than anticipated effects on the global water cycle. For example, local regulation of surface water flow and expanded regional irrigation activities have increased global evapotranspiration rates.

Science, this issue p. 1248