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July 2018

Reconstruction of Global Gridded Monthly Sectoral Water Withdrawals for 1971-2010 and Analysis of Their Spatiotemporal Patterns

A new global data set for understanding sectoral water use at regional and seasonal scales.

Global Gridded Data
This map is an example from the global gridded data set that shows the spatial distribution of annual mean water withdrawal in the six sectors. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (Huang et al. 2018). Enlarge Image.

The Science

Human water withdrawal is shown to alter the global water cycle, yet our understanding of its driving forces and patterns is limited primarily to water withdrawal estimates available at annual and country scales.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory reconstructed a global monthly, gridded (0.5 degree), sectoral water withdrawal data set for the period 1971-2010, that distinguishes six water use sectors: irrigation, domestic, electricity generation (cooling of thermal power plants), livestock, mining, and manufacturing. The gridded data set constitutes the first reconstructed global water withdrawal data product at seasonal and regional resolution that is derived from different models and data sources.

The Impact

The reconstructed gridded water withdrawal data set is open access, and can be used to compare water withdrawal estimates from global hydrologic models and also to supplement water withdrawal estimates in Earth system models, where domestic and industrial water withdrawal representations are often lacking. The data set is also important for investigating water use-related issues and patterns at fine spatial, temporal, and sectoral scales, which is critical for developing sound water management strategies.


Information on human water use is often available only on large space and time scales. To better inform Earth system models and global hydrologic models, the research team created estimates of water withdrawals on a smaller scale. They divided the Earth's surface into areas 0.5° by 0.5° (about 50 kilometers [30 miles] square near the equator), and combined the larger-scale data on water use with records of population, temperature, power usage, agriculture, manufacturing, and mining. They used several models to estimate water use in each of the grid areas, and verified their estimates with historical records between 1971-2010. The data set will be useful for water management and for Earth system modeling.


Sponsors: This research was supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy through the Multi-Sector Dynamics, Earth and Environmental System Modeling Program.

Research Area: Climate and Earth Systems Science

Research Team: Zhongwei Huang, Chinese Academy of Sciences/PNNL (Joint Global Change Research Institute)/University of Chinese Academy of Sciences; Mohamad Hejazi, PNNL (JGCRI)/University of Maryland, College Park; Xinya Li and Chris Vernon, PNNL; Qiuhong Tang, Chinese Academy of Sciences/University of Chinese Academy of Sciences; Guoyong Leng and Yaling Liu, PNNL (JGCRI); Petra Döll, Goethe University Frankfurt/Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (Germany); Stephanie Eisner, University of Kassel (Germany); Dieter Gerten, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany); Naota Hanasaki, National Institute for Environmental Studies (Japan); and Yoshihide Wada, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria)

Reference: Z. Huang, M. Hejazi, X. Li, Q. Tang, C. Vernon, G. Leng, Y. Liu, P. Döll, S. Eisner, D. Gerten, N. Hanasaki, Y. Wada, "Reconstruction of Global Gridded Monthly Sectoral Water Withdrawals for 1971-2010 and Analysis of Their Spatiotemporal Patterns." Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 22, 2117-2133 (2018). [DOI: 10.5194/hess-22-2117-2018]

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